So many terms to describe childcare providers that it can be very confusing for parents to determine if a childcare provider is operating a legal business. Most Childcare Providers fall under two categories, licensed or unlicensed. Licensed Childcare Providers undergo inspections, training, and background checks. Some Unlicensed Childcare Providers are also background checked, and giving training if they are accepting a childcare subsidy payment from the State to provide childcare to their relatives at the childcare provider's home, or as a Aide caring for children at their own home. Nannies and Babysitters are also unlicensed childcare providers who do not have to submit to a background check or complete any training, due to being employed by the parents to offer childcare in the child's own home. Unfortunately there is another childcare provider category that is threatening the safety and welfare of children and undermining efforts to be able to provide all children access to high quality child care and they are Illegal Childcare Providers. A characteristic of an illegal childcare provider is that they are eager beavers to accommodate all children regardless of times and days. They always have openings at their “daycare” regardless of the age of the child because they do not have a concern nor care about capacity, or having a competent assistant.
Who Are Illegal Childcare Providers?
Illegal Childcare Providers offer childcare for income on a regular basis in their own home to children who are not related to them by blood, marriage or adoption. Under Michigan Law, MCL 722.111, any person who provides care for children in their home for more than four weeks in a calendar year for annual compensation of more than $600 per child must have a license. Additionally, If they care for up to six unrelated children, they need to be licensed as a family child care home. If they look after seven to 12 unrelated children, they must be licensed as a group child care home.
Just doing a quick internet search I came across an incident where a child died in the care of an illegal childcare provider, a situation where children were being cared for in a house that was selling drugs, and one where the children were being hidden so that parents would not know how many children that the illegal childcare provider was caring for.
These are all terrible situations that really could of been prevented if the parents would of known how to identify an illegal childcare provider.
In some cases when care has been provided by an illegal childcare provider parents are aware and okay with this type of arrangement, due to the low cost and accessibility. In many cases parents who work non standard hours are the target group for illegal childcare providers to offer their services to. The loophole that allows this illegal childcare arrangement to exist is that the parents and the childcare provider claim to be related. No one can prove this and LARA (Licensing and Regulatory Affairs) can not enforce the law if both parties say they are related. The truth does eventually come to light, due to a child's safety being compromised.
How Not to Fall Victim to Illegal Childcare Providers
1. When calling to schedule a time to tour, or to meet the prospective childcare provider ask for their License Number. You can then use this number to verify if they have an active license by visiting the Statewide Search for Licensed Childcare Providers Website by entering the license number. You can also find details about the provider's locations, hours, licensing inspections, and if they ever had any violations or special investigations that may have caused their licensed to be revoked. Revoked licensees make up a huge number of Illegal Childcare Providers.
2. You can search for providers on The Great Start to Quality Website. This website only shares information about providers who are licensed.
3. Childcare Homes are required to post their license on the wall. If you don't see it, ask where it is. If after asking to see the license they can not produce one they are in fact an illegal childcare provider. There are other signs that are also required to be posted on the wall as well when operating a legal childcare home. Be sure to pay close attention to the Expiration Date on the license.
4. Everything is agreeable! Licensed Childcare Providers are very accommodating, but not when it comes to breaking daycare licensing rules.
A good question that parents should ask themselves is why is this person not licensed that is so willing to care for my child in their home? The answer an illegal childcare provider will give varies, but most likely it's because they can not pass a background check that would deem them eligible to be licensed, they do not have a home where it's environment is up to code to provide care for children in their home, or they have an ulterior motive that does not have your child's best interest.
We can stop illegal childcare providers in a number of ways, but our efforts may never grow tired of doing so. It would be of great help that when these traumatic events happen to children in the care of an illegal childcare provider that the news reports these events identifying the person as an Illegal Childcare Provider. Instead of reporting it as if they are operating a licensed daycare, which they are not. This one change could really improve the negative mindset that many have in regards to daycare, especially Licensed In Home Childcare Providers. Most fears that parents have about childcare are rooted by the stories they have watched on the news, or read about in the newspaper and on social media.
In Michigan you can complete an Online Complaint Form to report your suspicions of illegal childcare operations. You can also make a complaint by calling 866-856-0126. They need to know how you know the person (neighbor, social media, associate, etc). Your name is kept confidential!
The penalty for operating an illegal childcare business is a misdemeanor in Michigan. When we take into consideration the horrific situations that children have been placed in due to illegal childcare providers it only makes sense that we should be calling on lawmakers to make this crime a felony.
We can also encourage Illegal Childcare Providers to become licensed providers too. I am sure there are some that may not know the law or how to go about becoming licensed. If you know someone, or if you are interested in becoming a licensed childcare business owner LARA has a page on their website that has all the information to help you or them become a licensed childcare provider.
In order to stop illegal childcare businesses licensed and unlicensed childcare providers must become diligent in assisting Daycare Licensing with information when they are aware that someone is defrauding parents by offering childcare services when they do not have a license to do so. Parents must also become advocates for high quality childcare. Together as a team we could solve the problem of illegal childcare businesses. To ensure the safety and welfare of children this battle is definitely worth the fight!