A bill under consideration at the statehouse would require Iowans who run a day care service out of their own home to be licensed by the state. State officials estimate there are more than 12,000 in-home daycare operations in the state.

Representative Mary Mascher, a Democrat from Iowa City, says there are two main reasons to set up a state licensing system for Iowans who run a day care out of their home. “Number one — to assure quality and to make sure that the individuals providing that care have the training and the qualifications to be able to do that,” Mascher says. “But it’s also to give dignity to the profession. Our childcare providers are some of the poorest paid people in this state and that needs to change, and one of the ways we can change that is through the licensure process.”

About half of the in-home child day care operations in Iowa have registered with the state. The bill Mascher’s pushing would require nearly all to apply for a state license by 2013. “Currently, only child care centers are required to be licensed in Iowa. Day care homes are under a voluntary registration system and of those that are registered, only 20 percent of those are inspected in a year — and only those that have complaints.”

If Mascher’s bill becomes law, once an in-home day care passes a state inspection, the results would be posted on-line so parents could review the report. Mascher is NOT proposing that nannies or Iowans who babysit for immediate family members be licensed, so grandparents would be able to regularly babysit their grandkids.

But Representative Linda Miller, a Republican from Bettendorf, worries the bill goes too far. “Say you have a mom who says to her friend or neighbor, ‘You know, I’ll take your kids after school three days a week if you take my kids before school for a couple of hours.’ (Does) that mean that that instantly becomes an arrangement that we need to get our noses into as government?” Miller asks. “I don’t think so.”

Miller also objects to the costs associated with licensing in-home day cares. The bill allows state officials to charge up to a hundred dollars for a two-year license. “I mean, the money has to come from somewhere. These are not wealthy people,” Miller says. “These are small business women, for the most part, small business people in their homes and a hundred dollars, while doesn’t sound like a lot to us up here because we spend a lot of money every day, it’s a lot of money to these people.”

Sheila Hansen of the Iowa Child and Family Policy Center likes the bill. Hansen says the more professional the day care provider, the better off the kids will be. “We have lots of research that shows what the impact of quality care can mean on their development and we save money later on in the long run in terms of our investments,” she says.

The House Human Resources Committee began debating the bill Wednesday afternoon and will resume their discussion on Monday.