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Childcare Dilemma: Move to Home Settings Raises Questions

November 13, 2008

Phoenix, AZ – Pay cuts, job losses and other economic factors are pushing parents to take thousands of Arizona children out of regulated child care and into unlicensed home-based child care. Children's advocates say the savings do come with some potential problems, and offer short-term and long-term tips to minimize that risk. Susan Wilkins, Executive Director of the Association for Supportive Child Care, says the facilities are typically run by a friend, neighbor or relative.

"We like to call them unintentional child care providers. They never intended to be a child care provider, but they’re somehow doing a favor for somebody and got into this situation."

Wilkins is concerned about unlicensed child care settings, mostly because of a lack of independent oversight.

"They haven't been fingerprinted. Nobody's been in there to check to make sure the cupboards are locked and pesticides are locked and the children have a developmentally appropriate environment with activities going on that will nurture them."

In addition to the economy, Wilkins says home-based child care is growing partly because of the way state law is written.

"In the state of Arizona, you can care for four or fewer children in your home without being regulated. So there are a lot - thousands - of people out there doing that."

When parents move their kids to unregulated homes, child advocates recommend watching for the same things state inspectors do: background checks and a safe and nurturing environment. And if small, unregulated child care homes would like to obtain state licensing, theAssociation for Supportive Child Care provides training and some financial aid.

The Association would like to see Arizona law changed so that all child care settings, regardless of size, come under some independent scrutiny and state regulation.

More about the Association for Supportive Child Care is at www.asccaz.org.

Doug Ramsey, Public News Service - AZ