Given the Bureaucratic Nightmare Day Care Centers Must Deal With, Is It Any Wonder We Have a Shortage?

urious Kids Childcare, seen here July 10, 2018, sits off the road on 19th Ave N in Fargo. Erin Bormett / The Forum

Last month I wrote a print column about the incompetent, Kafkaesque bureaucracy the child care industry in our state is confronted with and whether or not it contributes to our region’s chronic child care shortages.

The problems with the bureaucracy are manifest. Today the Grand Forks Herald notes that the “North Dakota Department of Health has yet to comply with the Child Care Development Block Grant Act of 2014” which requires them to create better online access to information about child care providers (licensing, complaints, etc.). This was first recommended to the Department by state auditors back in 2013, half a decade ago.

In some ways the state’s child care bureaucrats can be alarmingly lax in their oversight. In 2016 a state audit of the ND Department of Human Services “found child care providers were allowed to continue operating while the state’s largest agency was aware of instances of illegal drug use and “’inappropriate touching from adults.'”

At this point, even if Curious Kids is successful in their appeal (a process which could take more than a year), how many of their customers can they expect back?

In other ways they can be draconian to the point where you wonder why anyone would want to go into the business of providing child care services.

Case in point, the saga of Curious Kids Childcare in Fargo.

I’ve written about this place before. State regulators decided to revoke the day care’s license after an incident in which three children got out through a gate that was left open. That’s a troubling incident, to be sure, but the parents have rallied around their child care provider opposing the license revocation. What’s more, the state’s crack down on Curious Kids doesn’t seem commensurate with how they’ve dealt with similar situations with other businesses, a point I made in my print column:

In December of 2016 workers at NDSU Wellness Center Childcare in Fargo left two children outside on a playground. This resulted in a correction order for the facility, but they were allowed to maintain their license.

In April of 2017 the YMCA South ELC in Fargo lost track of two 5-year-old girls. They were found a mile away from the facility and brought back. This, again, resulted in a correction order but the facility was allowed to maintain its license.

A reasonable person might conclude that some sort of probation and/or fine, stopping short of shutting the business down, might be more appropriate given the circumstances.

But that’s not happening, and now there’s another layer of absurdity poured on top of this situation.

Curious Kids has the right to an administrative hearing about their case, and they’d normally be allowed to keep their license during that process, only their license has reached its expiration date and the state bureaucrats are refusing to renew it.

This leaves Curious Kids to fight the bureaucracy without the on-going revenue of their business. What’s more, the parents who depend on this business are left needing to find alternative sources of care for their kiddos.

It’s a catch-22. At this point, even if Curious Kids is successful in their appeal (a process which could take more than a year), how many of their customers can they expect back?

It might be easier to side with the state in this incident if they had anything approaching a consistent track record in handling incidents like this one. The problem is they don’t.

What we need is a good balance between prudent regulation ensuring the safe operation of child care businesses and prohibitive, capricious bureaucracy which makes drives responsible entrepreneurs away from providing day care services.

The State of North Dakota isn’t providing that.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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