No Good Deed Goes Unpunished in Michigan, the Literal Nanny State
Lisa Snyder watches her neighbors’ children for less than an hour every day while they wait for the school bus. She is a stay-at-home mom and she does not accept any money in exchange for doing this. According to the Department of Human Services in Michigan, however, she is running an illegal daycare center. Department officials have notified Snyder that she needs to get a license in order to continue this informal babysitting, or she’ll go to jail for 90 days or pay a $1,000 fine. Even if it is raining or snowing, and even if the arrangement has been agreed upon by the parents, the DHS says that it is illegal for the children to come into Snyder’s home (or even into her garage).
By requiring licenses, the government is telling individuals that it knows better than they do. It’s paternalism in another form. The parents in Snyder’s neighborhood know her very well, so they are in a much better position to determine whether her home is a safe environment for their children.
Furthermore, having a daycare license does not ensure that a person is fit to supervise children. Earlier this year, for example, a woman running a licensed daycare in Arkansas accidentally placed windshield wiper fluid in her refrigerator and later served it to children! As a parent, I would much rather leave my kids under the supervision of a person like Lisa Snyder than a person who can’t tell the difference between wiper fluid and Gatorade. The Department of Human Services would feel differently, apparently.
Daycare licensure requirements do not result in better outcomes (e.g., fewer ER visits), nor do they improve the general welfare. In this case, all the involved parties (i.e., Snyder, parents, and children) are happy with their current arrangement. If the DHS gets its way, the parents will either have to stay home from work or pay a licensed daycare provider to watch their children.