Access to Child Care Key for Working Families

A recent story in the news has brought to light an issue that affects many Iowa’s working families –the need for access to quality, affordable child care. Perfect timing, given that last week we participated in the Early Childhood Iowa Day on the Hill at the Iowa State Capitol.

Recently, a case involving a child care provider was addressed by the Des Moines City Council. The provider, registered with the State of Iowa to care for up to twelve children (with an assistant), was cited as being in non-compliance with the City of Des Moines’ Zoning Code. The Code limits in-home child care to no more than six children. The provider was forced to decrease the number of children in her care to comply with the policy.

In return, the provider filed a complaint against the city’s state-registered child care homes to force a review of the policy. It was determined that approximately1,800 child care slots in the City of Des Moines would be lost in if home care providers were forced to comply with the City’s antiquated six- child rule.

After a number of people addressed City Council members, the decision to pursue the other providers was dropped. However, the problem is not resolved. The City sees this as a priority and will work to address the issue soon.

As the City begins to negotiate a solution, we must keep in mind the people affected by this change – the families!  Should the City limit the number of children a provider could care for, regardless of State law, numerous families will have to find alternative care for their children.

Parents choose a provider that offers a safe, nurturing, and stable environment to ensure their children thrive. When parents know their children are well-cared for, they can be productive employees. In-home care tends to cost less than center-based care and offer more flexible scheduling options often sought by the non-traditional employee.

We continually stress the need for quality care for our children. One measurement of quality is that a caregiver maintain a stable presence in a child’s life. Requiring 1,800 children to transition to a different provider will not promote the importance of quality care for our kids.

Des Moines is not the only municipality to identify inconsistencies between local and state policy. This brings to light the need to understand and address these policies.

Every Child Matters will monitor the outcome and offer input on the importance of providing access to quality and affordable child care in our communities.