Mess that is Day Care Licensing
family child care licensing practices are increasingly dominated by the desire to avoid even the mildest publicity
risk, leading to micro-management of day care homes, harming the children and their families. Our Minnesota Department of Human Services and our day care
licensing workers are turning family day care children into "Second
Class Citizens", sacrificing the safety, healthy development, and civil rights
the children, their families, and their child care providers.
Child care providers are being micro-managed,
harassed, and humiliated. The number
of licensed providers in the state has dropped from 17,000 to 11,000.
In Hennepin County, where the regulations are the most
problematic, the number of licensed providers has dropped from over
4,000 to a bit over 1,000.
Writing from personal experience, being a child care
provider in Hennepin county has become more difficult, more
embarrassing, and with a greater and greater requirement to provide
sub-standard care to our children. The better a provider is, the more
difficult will be their work life. As the best providers know,
raising children properly, successfully, always involves a little risk,
a few adventures, a chance for kids to learn how to handle a challenge.
The government reacts by making the regulations even more harmful,
silly, wasteful, and foolish, thus driving away ever more high quality
gradually losing the family child care option. Children are being harmed. We
need to do better.
Minnesota Department of Human Services, the Minnesota State
Legislature, the Hennepin County Day Care Licensing Unit, and numerous
individual licensing workers -- acting alone -- have been
issuing large numbers of new licensing regulations which are not in our existing
day care licensing rule, known as Rule 2 (9502.0300 to
9502.0445). Rule 2 has worked reasonably well for 40 years. Now that Rule is under attack.
The new requirements and regulations have been subjected
to little or no public review and
seem to be motivated primarily by fear of bad publicity and the desire
to avoid all risk to DHS and licensing workers, even at the cost of
harming children, families, and child care providers.
presumably well-intentioned additions and changes to the day care
licensing rule have several common features: un-reviewed or
minimally reviewed by parents, providers or relevant experts; ignorance
of what is best for kids and their
families; careless waste of the child care provider's
valuable time, resources, and money; and nearly always cause more
hurting children and their families.
Some of the new requirements were written as mis-guided
responses to specific events, especially events which attracted
publicity. Other of the new requirements are responses to imagined
threats, or simply as ways for licensing workers and DHS staff to make
their mark by "improving" child care standards. At least some are based
simply on ignorance and fear of criticism. Item number one in my list
of problematic new rules is an example of this last category.
Unfortunately, this collection of licensing rule additions is
long and complicated. I assure the reader that the changes taken as a
whole paint a picture of a child care licensing system which is out of
control, causing damage to the entire state of Minnesota. I ask
your patience as you make your way through this lengthy compilation.
parent choice of sleeping positions for Infants. Child
care providers are forbidden to allow an infant (under one year of age)
to sleep in a baby swing, in a car seat (even while traveling), a bouncy chair, a sling, a back-pack, a stroller, or their
own arms. Providers are not allowed to swaddle babies, even if the baby needs swaddling to sleep well, even when requested by parents, even though swaddling is widely recognized as safe and effective.
Only a firm crib mattress and a modern sleep sack are allowed,
regardless of parents' requests for alternative sleeping arrangements.
regulations hurt babies and violate the rights of their parents.
If a family is having trouble with their baby
poorly, parents may drive around until the baby falls asleep in her car
seat. Safety extremists disapprove of this, but they cannot yet prevent
it. If however the parents then bring the sleeping baby to their
child's day care provider, and she is persuaded to allow the exhausted
baby to finish her nap in the car seat, then she may lose her day care
license. Yes, this has already happened.
ban on parent choice was passed by the Minnesota Legislature, it was passed with
minimal public or provider review. The ban seems to be based on one preliminary
research study of two-day-old newborns. This study determined that
newborns who are left in car seats for extended periods of time
experience a slight drop in blood oxygenation levels.
If this same drop in blood oxygenation levels were
occur in much older infants, and this seems unlikely, then those older infants might be marginally more likely to die of SIDS if
left in a car seat for a greatly extended period of time.
However, we do not have the slightest evidence
occasional sleep in baby swings, car seats, strollers, slings, or backpacks is in
any way risky or harmful for older babies, two months and up. In fact,
a variety of sleeping positions helps to prevent the flat head syndrome
which is afflicting hundreds of thousands of infants.
This ban on parent choice of sleeping arrangement
is extraordinarily cruel. Many
babies need to have options in order to sleep properly. In my child
care home, we have cared
for several infants who slept beautifully in a baby swing, and were
completely unable to nap in a crib.
Many desperate parents drive
their babies around in a car until they find peaceful sleep. Without
the option of a baby swing or a car seat nap, these babies cry and
cry, disturbing other children, sending stress levels
through the roof, eating poorly, perhaps failing
Worst of all, babies who cannot sleep, because of misguided
micro-management by the day care licensing unit, may fail to develop
basic trust, with lifelong
consequences. All this harm has no excuse, no basis in fact.
Check out this brief article from Childrens
Hospital in Los Angeles: no evidence for or against
sleeping in a car seat.
Here is a blog
on car seats and SIDS.
A major Canadian study indicated that in every case they studied, death
of young infants in car seats was caused by the car experiencing a
sudden lurch throwing the
infants head forward. A "sudden lurch" is rather unlikely for a baby
finishing out an occasional nap in a NON-moving car seat
at home or in child care.
Articles on car seats and SIDS emphasize that any
given to parents against excessive use of car seats applies to babies under two months of age,
not the population of babies most commonly found in child care. In my
child care home we have served only one baby under two months of age in
over 35 years. She was five weeks old.
The Internet is filled with endorsements
of the value of infant swings, stories of parents
who describe these devices as "a life saver". How cruel that day care
babies must suffer lack of sleep, and be made into
"second-class-citizens" by safety extremists, who have no
evidence that baby swings are harmful. Click
here to see that the SIDS network agrees that baby swings are safe.
Mandated Reporter Law: both county and state
day care licensing staff routinely violate the intent and spirit of the
Minnesota Mandated Reporter law, as well as the
constitutional rights of child care providers.
I know this has happened at least
once, because the licensing
people did it to me. If
what I was told by one DHS staff person is correct, this thwarting of
Mandated Reporting -- by child care licensing staff -- has happened
literally thousands of times, and still
today. I will present the story of my own experience.
A few years ago, three young school-age children hid in a
closet and looked at each
others privates. We caught them and reminded them that privates must
remain private. We did not scold or punish anyone. Parents were
immediately informed. No one was harmed, and no parent complained.
Being a conscientious child care provider, I reported this incident to Hennepin
County Day Care Licensing.
After I self-reported this incident, Hennepin
County Day Care Licensing created a correction
claiming that they had "received a complaint regarding your
licensed child care home". Even
one had complained about us, the day care unit
created a permanent public record which stated that a complaint had
been lodged, but they could not reveal who had complained.
here to see the Correction Order plus my hand written annotation.
During the long and
expensive process (over $8,000) of having the fake complaint removed
from our record, I was told by several County and State DHS personal
that what happened to us was standard
operating procedure. One person
at DHS claimed that they have re-characterized a
of problems as a complaint
the provider thousands of times. The DHS
expressed surprise that I was concerned. She said that I was the
first provider to challenge this standard practice!
here is the situation, as was related to me. Every time a family child
care provider follows the Minnesota
Mandated Reporter Law, self-reporting an incident, that
provider is punished
non-existent anonymous complaint on their permanent public record! I
amazing. The County and State are punishing honest child care
providers who are responsible and follow the Mandated Reporter law.
This is a clear
violation of both the intent and spirit of the mandated reporter law,
which was designed to protect
people who report a problem. What our family day care
licensing people are doing, at both the state and local level,
thwarts mandated reporting.
I have no way of confirming that
this has been done to any other child care providers beside myself.
However, the several licensing people I spoke with were quite clear
what was done to me was normal. Please pause now and think about what
is actually happening here
in Minnesota. Child care providers are being told that someone they
know, a client, employee, or neighbor,
has secretly turned them in to
the government. These are the terror tactics of the secret police,
totalitarian society creating fear, suspicion,
providers are being told that someone they
know, a client, employee, or neighbor,
has secretly turned them in to
I have suggested
to both DHS and to Hennepin County Day Care Licensing that to correct
this situation, they need only record and post a self-report of an
incidents as a
"self-report", and not
as a "complaint against your day care home". I have received
Crib Check Form:
every month all of the child care providers in Hennepin County,
both family-based and center-based, are required to examine
their cribs, and then fill out a crib check form which is fundamentally
flawed, seriously inaccurate. The child care providers
are required to attest that their non-full size compact cribs
comply with this incorrect form. Since the form is flawed, and no cribs
anywhere now or ever met the specifications in the form, the
providers are required to lie.
The crib check form required by Hennepin County and distributed by the DHS web site is completely out of compliance with federal crib design standards. The DHS crib check form contradicts the crib standards provided on line by the federal Consumer Producrs Safety Commission. Distributing these non-complaint standards may be a violation of federal law
as well as a problem for Minnesota child care providers who are
required to sign a false document or lose their child care license.
The current crib check
form has seriously incorrect numbers for the required height of the
crib sides for compact (non-full-size) cribs. The form requires the
same crib rail height for
compact cribs that it requires for full-size cribs, which is not
possible. The flawed
form is given out by licensing workers, and
may also be found on the Department of Human Services web site.
See flawed form at
photos of actual cribs.
These real cribs are fully compliant with federal regulations,
made and safe, but they do NOT and cannot meet the specifications on
the Minnesota State Department of Human Services inspection
Amazingly, a few years ago, the DHS crib check
correct, and in proper agreement with the federal crib requirements set
out by the Consumer Products Safety Commission. See
(full sized cribs) and
Ironically, the Minnesota Child Care Resource
& Referral Network, which also publishes the
incorrect (impossible) specifications for compact cribs has Internet links
to the correct
federal forms on the very same page that they repeat the bad
information. Also, Anoka County Day Care Licensing publishes and
provides the older, CORRECT crib check form. I have spoken to Anoka
County licensing workers and child care providers, and I am able to
report that they are laughing at those of us who live in Hennepin
This crazy problem began around 2007 ago when a licensing staff person decided that it was "unfair"
and "unsafe" for the height specifications of compact cribs to be less
than the numbers for a full sized crib. Never mind that compact cribs
are required to have mattresses which are four inches thinner than
full-sized cribs, and therefore MUST have shorter crib sides to provide
the same height sides in relationship to the child. See
photos with explanation.
NOTE: I have provided this information
to the Minnesota
Department of Human Services and the the Hennepin County Day Care
several times. I have written them e-mails, conventional paper letters,
and sent them the link to the correct federal crib requirements. I have
even printed out copies of the older correct crib check
form and the newer incorrect
form, plus copies of the federal requirements, with the correct
specification circled. I have mailed this information to our licensing
authorities, but they have not responded. I spoke directly in person to
four Hennepin County child care licensing workers, explaining the
probelm in detail. These licensing workers promised to look into
th eproblem, but they failed to fix it. The County and DHS still
promote the bad crib check form.
with the correct information before them, and the authority of the
federal government behind that information, the day care licensing
people cannot correct their error.
thing about all of this is not
that day care licensing persons
spoiled the correct form thoughtlessly, or that a knowledge of third
grade math was lacking. The worst thing is that our
licensing people are so afraid of risk, so worried about the tiniest
criticism, that they cannot find the strength or courage to fix the crib check
form, to admit and undo their mistake.
This attitude is typical of the majority of our
regulations. The additions to Rule 2 provide "make work" for licensing people and
trainers, and do
little to improve child care. Our cribs must be checked every month, as
though the spacing of the slats might change, or the crib suddenly grow
corner posts. These items need be checked once only, not every month.
The only part of the crib check form which makes
sense to me,
checking for loose or damaged hardware, might be better done once a
year, at the same time that we check for crib recalls. In my child care
home, I have four cribs, which I must check every month. In four years
I have found two loose bolts, both in the first month after I assembled
the cribs, and no other problems in the ensuing three years and eleven
months. I have wasted many, many hours filling out this flawed, illegal form.
No one knows for sure how often our cribs actually
need to be checked, because the licensing people
rarely review the need or the effectiveness of their regulations. If we
want to know what they really think of the importance of this form,
consider this. For years our licensing workers have distributed a seriously flawed form,
which cannot be used correctly, but they cannot be bothered to correct
the form, even when the errors are both obvious and well known.
Banning bunk beds.
After being used safely for more than 40 years, and approved by
over a dozen day care licensing workers, our beautiful bunk beds were
banned during our 2010 re-licensing visit. Even though bunk beds are
not mentioned in Family Day Care
Licensing Rule 2, day care licensing workers have begun to ban their
our case this was a great loss for our family day care home. We need
the sleeping space, and we use the bunk beds as a reward for children
who show responsibility.
ordinary fun is banned, when the children and adults are assumed to be
careless and incompetent, our family day care children are made into
second class citizens.
Before our licensing worker banned our bunk beds,
not ask us any questions about why we had bunk beds, nor did she ask
about our safety record using bunk beds. Had she asked we would have
told her that children had been sleeping in those bunk beds for over
forty years, with zero injuries. We might have mentioned that the
sturdy hard wood railings had been added by a master carpenter who was
also a master carpenter and fine violin maker.
would have told our licensing worker about the great social importance
of those bunk beds in our child care culture. Graduating to the "top
bunk" has been reserved for older preschoolers and school age children. The
top bunk was earned by children who demonstrated responsibility and
reliability. Allowing a child to sleep in the top bunk was one way that
we showed our children our trust and respect.
Banning the bunk beds eliminates this laudable goal from our
child care. We also lose a great place for a school age child to take
an occasional nap. We lose an isolated, safe place for a sick child to
rest while they wait for a parent to pick them up. But the biggest harm
in losing the bunk beds is the message it sends to our
Thoughtlessly banning normal activities which are fun
exciting hurts are children far more than it helps, ultimately making
kids less safe, not more safe.
even tiny risks out of the lives of our young children puts them at
far greater risk later, as they grow up without any practice being
careful or facing physical challenges. Children who are raised without
respect for their abilities or their judgment, will eventually need to
prove to themselves and to their caregivers that they are worthy of
respect. This poses a far greater risk than allowing bunk beds.
An inexperienced child, a child who was keep away
chances to prove herself or himself, will take risks which are more
serious and more foolish than a child who has been hurt a little, and
has been given some reasonable responsibility for her or his own
The great thing about bunk beds is
that the short ladder and the top bunk are a bit scary, exciting, and require some care and
courage. When we ban fun, when we degrade our kids childhood, just to
appear slightly more safe, we make our family day care homes into a second
class setting for raising children.
Again and again our child care licensing workers and DHS
staff put their own reputations ahead of the well being of the kids.
swimming at beaches. See Item 4, Banning bunk beds. Recently
the Hennepin County Day Care licensing unit has decided, with
public input or hearings, to ban all trips to the beach for Minneapolis
day care children. The mechanism of this ban is the new requirement that
a life guard be present whenever kids are taken to the beach, and
Minneapolis has no lifeguards at the beach on weekdays.
This ban is not required by the licensing rule.
requires that kids at the beach be supervised by an adult who can swim
and is certified in CPR. Those simple requirements have always been sufficient. The ban on beach
trips for family day care kids was not based on any problems with beach
trips, no day care child has died at a Minneapolis beach, and requiring a life guard does not necessarily keep the kids
Drownings are actually much more common
on weekends, when a lifeguard is present and the beaches are crowded
and chaotic, and during evenings, when darkness and alcohol are often
If you visit a public beach on a weekday
morning, when child care providers usually bring their kids, you will
see very few kids in the water, and a whole host of moms continuously
watching the kids. The
number of adults watching is far greater than the number of kids in or
near the water. The scene is quiet, with few or any teens,
and very little risky behavior.
Again, I ask the reader to review what I said
banning bunk beds. If we ban all risk, adventure, fun and
excitement from the lives of our young children, those children will
almost certainly take far greater risks later, when we can no longer
protect them. As a natural part of growing up, children are driven to
challenge themselves, to experience danger. We can allow small dangers,
under our watchful eyes, when we can help and give advice, or we can be
certain that he kids will choose far greater dangers, out of anger and
resentment, when we are no longer around to stop them. Pay now or pay
much more later.
The day care licensing unit
trades the false appearance of safety today for far greater danger later,
when they, the licensing workers, can no longer be embarrased by a
possible problem. In this way our family day care children are made
into second class children, banned from ordinary activities, common fun, and healthy growth. Again.
6. Fear of baby powder? Yes,
our licensing worker cited us, put a black mark on our permanent
record, because our baby powder was too accessible, too close to the
worker told us that baby powder causes "suffocation". Surprised,
I asked what she meant. She then claimed that baby powder causes
"asphyxiation": baby powder actually kills children who get hold
of the bottle of powder.
This is utter nonsense.
No child has ever died, not ever anywhere in the world, from
playing with a can of baby powder. They do make quite a mess, and
have a little too much fun, so we are careful to keep the can closed,
and prevent baby powder play.
7. Flexible cord foolishness. Everyone
in Minnesota except family child care providers may use an extension
cord. Electricians use them, state legislators use them, doctors,
lawyers, and fire fighters all use extension cords. But not child care
providers, not even if the cord is properly installed, meets the electrical
code, and makes their day care home nicer and safer.
Since the 1970's,
the Hennepin County Day Care Licensing Unit has handed out a
safety check list banning all "flexible cords", including extension cords.
If enforced as written, child care providers would not be allowed
to have refrigerators, radios,
lamps, computers, washing machines or driers in our homes. I have
pointed out this problem in letters, and in person, dozens of
times to various licensing workers and supervisors. Some listened with
puzzlement, but no one has ever responded to my complaints.
More recently, for the last five years or so, the day care
licensing unit has adjusted their focus to banning extension cords,
although they still also ban all "flexible cords". The focus on extension
cords is perhaps less comical, but it is also more harmful, because of stricter enforcement.
care licensing rule states "extension cords shall not be used as a substitute for permanent wiring".
This actually makes sense, but the licensing workers and day care
licensing unit clearly do not understand what the rule means, so they
ban all extension cords, even when the cords are being used safely
Our day care play room has
twenty-two permanent outlets, generous by any standard. I used an
extension cord with a flat plug to safely bring power to the top of a
set of toy shelves, to plug in a boom box and a digital clock-sound
machine. The flat plug, also called a right-angle plug,
on the extension cord fits safely behind the shelves. If I plug the
boom box and digital clock directly into the wall, then their
"straight-line" cords are crushed, bent hard over, which is not safe. So, the extension cord I used increased safety.
The amount of power used by the boom box plus the clock
radio is tiny, about 23 watts. The extension cord is rated by UL labs to
safely carry 1340 watts, giving us a huge safely margin. Plugging a
boom box and a clock into an extension cord would be OK in any home in
the world, unless that home is also a day care home in Hennepin county.
This is how being a licensed child care provider is
humiliating, difficult, and annoying. This is one more reason that the
number of licensed providers is plummeting.
Strangely, the licensing workers do allow us to replace an
extension cord with an outlet strip. Apparently, they do not realize
that an outlet strip is just another extension cord. Ironically, the
outlet strips allow a provider to plug in more stuff, increasing the
chances of overloading an electrical outlet. Their ignorant enforcement
of a poorly understood rule actually has the potential to make our
homes less safe.
8. Good training replaced by bad. More
and more of our training requirements are a waste of time, motivated
entirely by headlines and fear of political embarrassment. This
wasteful training is must be taken over and over, and has greatly
reduced opportunities to take valuable training which we want and need.
The silliest of these is the annual requirement
that we take a class about Shaken Baby Syndrome. We take this
class again and again and again, as though the child care providers
will suddenly forget and shake a baby. Yes, Sahken Baby Syndrome is
horrible, but this requirement is a rediculous waste of valuable time.
We are also required to take CPR classes again and again.
I have had CPR at least 14 times, each time using up an entire
day. Whan I take an all day CPR class, I generally do not have
time to attend an all day training conference, so the CPR replaces my
regular child care training.
This would be OK,
if we did not have a better alternative. However, studies have shown
that a CPR class on DVD is more effective than the long, boring live
classes. We could have one hour CPR classes on DVD as part of any all
day training conference. The video CPR class would be
cheaper, much shorter, and still allow me and others to take more child
care related training. Quality child care training is one way to avoid
the need for CPR. An ounce of prevention...
-- This section will be continued. --
-- See below for closing remarks and my suggested solution to the licensing mess. --
The never-ending mess.
Minnesotans have allowed the government to be deeply involved in
the every day care of more than half of our children, the children in
licensed day care. The welfare and comfort of the licensing workers and
the Minnesota Department of Human Services licensing staff has
superseded the provision of high quality child care. To me this seems
inevitable. I do not see any way to convince licensing workers to allow
the normal risks which are absolutely essential to raising a healthy
child and to attracting and keeping enthusiastic and skillful child
Everything which makes life
worth living carries risk, and can sometimes lead to problems,
scandals, and embarrassment to government regulators.
In my opinion the only solution to this is to eliminate
child care licensing and replace it with registration. The state of
Michigan has registration for family child care providers, and they
have better outcomes than we do here in Minnesota. I have read that
Michigan has fewer cases of SIDS in day care, as well as fewer injuries
in day care homes.
- Swim classes have sometimes resulted in the death of swim class students. Do we ban swim classes?
- Horse back riding results in injuries. Ban horses?
- Pets are wonderful and, on rare occasion, dangerous. Licensing people have already banned dozens of excellent pets.
- Playgrounds are dangerous. Licensors don't like them. Normal mild mishaps are labeled "lack of supervision" and punished.
- Health department workers and licensing workers have repeatedly tried to ban teddy bears, stuffed animals, soft toys, rugs.
workers are obsessed, militant, panicked, over the possibility of
children peeking at each other privates, and are strongly against
blanket forts, play tents, appliance boxes, or any form of cozy
- The child care food program has rules for serving food which promote poor nutrition and obesity in our children.
- Pens, pencils, staplers, scissors, paint brushes are all pointy, may cause accidents or be used as weapons. Ban 'em!
- Tricycles, bicycles, roller skates, scooters, skate boards, any thing with wheels are far too risky for licensing workers.
- Trees can be climbed, kids can fall. One of our licensing workers wanted us to fence them off or cut them down.
is inedible, as are most tree and shrub leaves. We have been warned
over and over that we should not have such dangers in our play yards.
Concrete and black top can cause scrapes, bumps, and bruises. Child day
care play yards should be made of a soft foam plastic, but with no play
equipment. Is that a joke? An exaggeration? No, unfortunately not.
I have also been told
informally that child care providers in Michigan are not quitting at
the same precipitous levels as they are here in Minnesota, but I have
not been able to confirm this. I myself would much rather be registered than licensed. My stress levels would be lower, my work life easier and simpler, our day care children would be safer, and the quality of care we provide would be significantly higher. Sad, but true.
Turner and Kauper Child Care Home