Two Iowa State University researchers who study the state’s child care providers are urging Iowa legislators to explore greater monitoring of the home child care facilities. The legislature passed a law to register child care providers, but I-S-U researcher Susan Hegland says that law does not require licenses for child care providers.
Hegland says there’s a great deal of confusion among parents who assume that the registration process is the same as a license. Hegland says while you must have a license to cut someone’s hair or care a meal from your home — home-based child care providers aren’t required to have a license. That can lead to unsafe practices.
Hegland says she can change your baby’s diaper, fix a bottle for a baby from another family, change the diapers of another baby, and never wash your hands inbetween without any training to tell you how dangerous that is. Hegland says we need to change the way the state looks at home child care.
Hegland says when you’re taking money from two unrelated families, these are not informal arrangements between neighbors helping each other out — these are long standing businesses that advertise for clients. She says we need to start treating these operations as businesses and giving them the respect they deserve. Hegland says legislators are concerned about the cost of increasing the regulation of home child care — but she says it could be done in a way to make better use of the money being spent now.
Hegland says there are some efficiencies in other states that could take some of the money that’s used to try and persuade providers to operate safe care and redirect it to require child care providers to follow safe practices. She says the money would be spent on training child care providers from the start, instead of paying to try and check up on them. She says in some states as soon as you take money from two unrelated families, you have to pay $25 and take an orientation course where you find out what you have to do to be sure that children are safe and healthy.
Hegland says instead of paying all the costs of sending consultants out to check up on the providers, you say they can’t provide care until they learn what to do. Hegland says turnover in child care nationwide and in Iowa is between 20 and 50-percent. Hegland says they think some of the turnover is because some people didn’t know what they were getting into, thinking child care would let them spend more time with their own children.
But she says research show caring for other kids increases your stress, and some people find they can’t spend time with their kids as they’re taking care of other children. Hegland says increased regulation would help the child care industry in a couple of ways. Hegland says it would help some people realize it isn’t the business for them, and it would help keep some providers from being undercut in wages by those who say they can do the job cheaper.
Hegland works with fellow researcher Kathlene Larson at the " Community Development – Data Information and Analysis Laboratory " (CD-DIAL) at Iowa State. They presented a summary of their research to Iowa legislators on the Home-Based Child Care Study Committee as legislators debate future funding for improving access to child care within the state.