Posted by: Hannah | 05/05/2011

bureaucratic nonsense

This week I had a visit from a nice lady who is trying, with a provincial grant, to set up a Family Home Day Care Agency. The stated goal, she told me over the phone and in her first email, is to offer support and resources to those of us running unlicensed (i.e. six children or less) dayhomes. She told me all I would need to do to be a part of this Agency was to update my first aid training (something I’ve been planning to do this summer anyway). So I invited her to come out during my already hectic workday with the express intention of signing on.

What she brought still has me reeling. A 40+ page book of “Family Home Day Care Guidelines” that is taken, word for word, from the provincial Day Care Regulations. Under this new (so far voluntary) system, all dayhomes will be required to comply with the existing Day Care Act – this, despite not having staff, purpose-built premises, or grants & subsidies from the government to assist.

In order to comply with all the regulations, it would cost me literally hundreds of dollars – not to mention hours of additional administrative and meal prep time every day. (Right now, my kids bring lunches & snacks from home. Under the new guidelines, I would be responsible for all meals & snacks – prepared to provincial food preparation & service standards, natch). In return for this massive investment of time and money, I would get access to two free professional development workshops per year, and a “Family Home Day Care Agency” sticker for my door.

Here is the letter I sent to the consultant:

Thank you again for making the trip out to see me yesterday. In principle, I agree that guidelines and a support network for home daycare providers are much needed and an important acknowledgment of the service we provide to the community.

I’ve reviewed the Handbook you left and discussed with my family, as well as with a friend of mine who also offers dayhome care for young children. After careful consideration, I have to say that I will not be participating in the Agency at this time.

This was not a decision that I made lightly, and please bear with me as I explain my concerns with the program as presented. I encourage you to share any or all of my concerns with the Minister of Community Services and the Department.

I made the decision to care for other people’s children in my home for many reasons. First, with two children of my own, placing them both in care is financially prohibitive. Second, I have what I thought was an ideal setup – fenced yard, plenty of space, and a dedicated playroom area. And finally, I enjoy children and felt that I would be able to offer flexible, affordable, home-based care for other young families faced with a shortage of child care options.

I have always done my level best to provide safe, fun and reliable care, at a reasonable price. I keep records and issue tax receipts. We do crafts, read stories, go on nature walks, and dedicate lots of time to imaginative play. We do not watch TV or play on computers.

In short, I do my very best to provide professional and loving care within the boundaries of being one adult caring for six children under the age of four.

I feel that the proposed Family Home Day Care Guidelines are too onerous and expensive for the average dayhome to meet. As far as I can tell, they are basically identical to the requirements for setting up a licensed daycare – with the very significant difference that we dayhome providers do not have staff available to assist.

For example, the requirement that the dayhome provider must purchase, prepare, and supply one meal and two snacks per day, per child, to provincial nutritional guidelines – while following all provincial food preparation and service requirements, as well. In my dayhome, I currently have one child on a vegetarian diet; one who is still largely bottle-fed; one who is lactose intolerant; two who won’t eat whole wheat bread; and one who won’t eat white bread. In order to follow the proposed guidelines, I would need to prep snacks & meals for all of these disparate tastes and food restrictions. Unless I want to be preparing food in the play area, with all attendant dangers (not to mention my lack of attention to the children), I would need to prepare these meals & snacks during the evenings, when I am caring for and spending time with my own family. This does not even take into account the cost of providing fresh fruit & vegetables for all those additional children – meaning I would need to put my rates up.

I also strongly disagree with the requirement to have a fully-fenced yard. As you know, I do already have one, but many dayhome providers do not. The cost to fence a yard is exorbitant, not to mention time-consuming. I feel this is an unreasonable requirement to place on dayhome providers. After all, the parent clients would know when they chose to place their children in a particular home; if they are not concerned with the lack of fence and are satisfied that their children will be adequately supervised, that should be enough.

In addition, I don’t think it is reasonable to require dayhome providers to adhere to daycare regulations regarding illness. Clearly, any dayhome provider will not take children who are obviously very ill – and will call the parents if illness happens during the day. To require a doctor’s note to re-admit the children is not something I personally would be require; I have a close relationship with all my parent clients, and we work together in cases of illness to determine the best course of action.

Finally, I am struggling a bit to see a positive cost/benefit analysis for we dayhome providers. Following the proposed guidelines would be an increased administrative burden, not to mention the additional costs in both time and money to meet all the requirements. There are no subsidies available to help with these increased costs, meaning that the providers must raise rates. I currently charge $30 for a full day (anything over four hours) and $18 for a half day. My research has shown that this is standard for my community and thus what the market will bear. To raise my rates would result, I suspect, in me losing clients – and having a harder time attracting new ones. With no budget for publicity of the Agency in the community, promoting this new strategy would also fall largely on the providers. Frankly, it appears to me as if the province is trying to increase the number of available child care spaces while downloading the majority of the costs to the providers. I’m not convinced that it is in my best interests to participate in the program.

I could go on, but for me the bottom line is this: people who chose home daycare do so for a host of reasons. It is usually less expensive. It is more personal. For children with anxieties, it is a more gentle transition from home to the big wide world. It is more flexible in terms of drop off, pick up, sick time, and holiday time. It is a unique service that we dayhome providers offer, and to try and fit us into the licensed daycare mould is both unreasonable and unworkable.

Again, please feel free to share my concerns with the Department.

Comments? What do you think? Those of you who place your kids in a home-care setting, what were the reasons behind your decision? Would you be prepared to pay substantially higher rates for the homes to be meeting all current day care regulations?

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Responses

  1. Wow, talk about a “Nanny State.” Hahahahahah…

    Okay, seriously…

    Call me suspicious, but it sort of smell like a longer-range strategy to herd kids into licensed provincial programs, and maybe even all day kindergarten, a la Ontario style. Either way, the bottom line for the government, well, the bottom line.

    This person is either a con artist not working for the government, or there are some ulterior motives. I’m sorry, nobody is stupid enough to believe this is A) a good idea; or B) that it is actually workable.

    Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to keep working on the security gates around my compound…

  2. I’ve had the kids in both home care and licensed daycare. I prefer home care because the ratio between kids to supesrvisor is lower and the expected interaction between kids is more similar to siblings than class mates. In my experience the cost for home care was less. In some cases I chose home care without reciepts over licensed daycare. The money I saved made up for what I couldn’t claim on taxes.
    What I didn’t like about the licensed daycares my kids have been to is that it is run like a school. Which to some kids can be stressful. After a day at school, my kids don’t want to go to another one. Most of all though it was the contracts. I had to pay for days my kids weren’t there. Nothing drove me more crazy than paying someone for work they didn’t do because it was a holiday or a snow day or a sick day.
    I can’t say I’d pay more for home care than daycare (it’s expensive as is) but I would pay the same for sure. I’d hire you in a heart beat.

  3. It’s an excellent letter: articulate, clear, and pointed without being in any way rude.

    I’ve had my children in three separate dayhome settings over the past four years…two which we were very happy with and which have been long-term relationships. Posey still goes to the last dayhome two days a week, because she loves the sitter and we weren’t quite ready to go full-time in the school setting.

    The dayhome IS personal and intimate: those are its benefits. It is not standardized. That too can be a benefit, as you mention regarding illness (and in my case, storm days).

  4. Those are crap regulations. My kids go to a boys and girls club that is, as far as I can tell, partially subsidized by the local government. I know for a fact that the snacks provided would not meet this, and frankly, I don’t much expect them to. They eat as they wish to at home and everywhere else, and I’d much rather see them supervised than given the adequate amount of veg.

    Stay as you are. You obviously care for the kids you take in, and parents would leave if you didn’t. And I doubt they can afford more, just like you can’t.

    Typical government.

  5. Wow, I am blown away by the $30/day part, as we pay $75/day. Mind you, everything costs more in Australia (especially houses – don’t get me started) and our children attend a center, but $30 a day seems incredibly low. It is less expensive to use home-care here, too, but certainly not that much less expensive. I also can’t remember what the differences were in terms of the guidelines because it has been over three years since we made our decision to go with a center.

    I think it would be completely unreasonable for you to provide food at those rates. If you were my home carer as much as I would dread coming up with food for the kids I would rather do it so that you were then free to spend time them during the day.

    • Holy moley Quadelle, $75 a day?!? That’s… wow. That’s a lot of money. Licensed daycares cost around $40 – $45 now I think? Something like that. When we had I. in daycare we paid $38 per – and we thought that was crazy.

  6. Francis – My worry is that this is the thin edge of the wedge in terms of making these “guidelines” into “regulations”. I’ve worked with government enough over the years to know this is a cheap shortcut to “public consultation” – which is why I’m not going to play along.

    Misty & Bon – Thanks for your thoughts (and Misty, I suspect you would be a dream client, so thanks! I take horseback riding lessons in trade.)

    I only wish the Handbook was in electronic format – I would post the damn thing. It’s truly insane. I didn’t even mention the bit where I’m supposed to get signed permission slips to take the kids out in the front yard because it doesn’t have a fence. *eye roll*

  7. I suspect that these Family Home Day Care Guidelines represent a transitional phase for further government regulation. I agree (though my opinions are theoretical not practical) that dayhomes are preferred to daycares for the very reasons you noted: they’re less institutional, more personal.

    Your letter is excellent. And your dayhome sounds lovely.

  8. Well spoken.

    Unlicensed daycares in BC run at about 500-600 a month for full time care. I want to find a licensed home, because I don’t know who I can trust and who I can’t in the unlicensed area (a child actually died in an unlicensed home around the corner from me). Not that I think that all unlicensed homes are death traps, but I would rather know someone personally before leaving my child in an unlicensed home.

    Licensed daycares run at around 800 a month for full time care.

    Licensed FACILITIES run at up to 1200 a month. A friend of mine pays that for a facility daycare that even features webcams all over so you can watch your child from work!


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