DHS threatens mom with jail, fines, for watching neighbors' kids
This is one of those stories that sparks instant outrage. A mom in Middleville, Mich., helps out two other neighborhood moms by watching their kids for a little while in the mornings before school. The bus stop is at her house, and she lets the kids inside to wait so that their parents can get to work on time. She's not being compensated.
All was well, until the Department of Human Services stepped in.
[O]n Sept. 11, Snyder got a letter from the Michigan Department of Human Services (DHS) telling her that someone — presumably another neighbor — had complained that she was running an illegal day care center. Snyder was told that she had to either get a license to run such a service, or face fines and up to 90 days in jail.
The law, which dates back to 1973, says that anyone who watches an unrelated person’s child for a period of 28 days a year is running a day care center and has to have a license. It doesn’t matter if the child is being watched for five minutes a day or five hours.
According to the story, Snyder called the DHS to get further clarification, asking questions like "What if it's raining or snowing? Can't I let the kids wait for the bus in my house?"
A DHS employee told her the other parents should "buy an umbrella."
This is an abdication of common sense. Yes, the law is supposed to protect children from unlicensed day cares. But it's not meant for situations like this.
Thankfully, state Rep. Brian Calley, R-Portland, is working to change the law. Providing a refreshing bit of sanity to the article, Calley told Today:
“I understand the idea of regulating a business in that way, but when friends are helping friends, I think parents are in much better position to determine what’s safe for their kids than the Department of Human Services,” Calley replied. “There’s no amount of testing or interviews or applications that somebody could fill out and send them to the Department of Human Services that would make them more capable of determining a safe environment for kids than the parents themselves.”
Jen Eyer is on the Community Team at AnnArbor.com. She can be reached at 734-623-2577 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or you can visit her at 301 East Liberty.