Saturday, January 26, 2008

WARNING: Government Help Ahead

"The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help.'" -- Ronald Reagan

Government exists because people need to be protected from each other sometimes. But who protects us from the government? Unfortunately, people don't need as much protection as there are government workers to provide it. So, over time, Government has to find new things to do. Being the helpful sort, that usually means things that will "help" us.

My column from last week dealt with one example of how government "helps" us. It involved a recent story in the newspaper, "Parents scramble as daycare closes":

Parents of more than 70 children were left scrambling for daycare on Jan. 9, as a Minnieville Road child-care facility that was in the process of switching ownership suddenly shut its doors to business.
The business was changing hands, she said, and as part of the purchase agreement, the old owners were to allow the new owners to operate temporarily under their business license. "It was just until [the new owners] could get their own license," Hooper said.

But that was then - and in the now of January, the business deal turned south and the new owners were not allowed to operate under the former's business license. So they were forced to close doors.

The story indicates that there is a "planned opening for Feb. 15, after operators receive their new business license."

Nowhere in the story did it explain government's role in this fiasco, which centered around the need for a new business license.

From "What does government do for us?":

The owners will lose more than a month of revenue. The employees will go more than a month with no pay or benefits. And 70 families will have to make temporary arrangements, which is no simple task in the middle of a school year.

Why does the government need months to issue a license to continue operating a day care center that was already operating without incident?

I understand that some people find comfort in the quaint notion that a license protects their children. But in this case, the "protection" resulted in parents forced to find a new day care provider on short notice, with little chance to find the best environment for their children -- which they already had and would still have if not for government's meddlesome desire to "help."
So instead, a day care that was ready, willing and able to serve its customers has to turn them away in the middle of winter, so government can provide its valuable "service." And what is that service?

To answer that question, you need to read the Virginia Standards for Licensed Child Day Centers. This is a 100+ page document, which details every aspect of operating a licensed facility. It includes sections for Administration, Staff Qualifications and Training, Physical Plant (the building), Programs and Special Care Provisions. And while I'm making fun of this document, there are good, common-sense things in it.

But other parts look like they were added by people who ran out of real work. For example, under "Administration," there is a section about "operational responsibilities." This covers major items like licensing, background checks, government inspections and maintaining the facility.

But then there's a provision about "misleading advertising," and a requirement for "written procedures for injury prevention," followed by a requirement to update the injury prevention procedures annually. I don't KNOW these were added on bit by bit, but it sure reads that way.

The final provision in the section requires "written playground safety procedures," which I would have expected to be part of the "injury prevention" plan that's updated yearly. These procedures are required to cover "positioning of staff in strategic locations, scanning play activities, and circulating among children," as well as maintaining the "resilient surface."

In other words, it appears that a well-intentioned attempt to ensure basic standards for day care has evolved into a micro-managing document requiring plans for every aspect of the day care operation.

One almost expects to find a requirement for a plan to ensure adequate potty breaks. (There isn't, but it does say restrooms must "Have toilets that are flushable").

With all these requirements, it's no wonder it takes so long to get a license. But it's for our own good. As the Virginia Department of Licensing tells us, "The Division of Licensing Programs protects children and vulnerable adults in day and residential care settings."

Not in the literal sense of protecting your children while they are in the day care setting, but in the governmental sense of shutting down your day care for over a month while they check the paperwork and make sure nobody has removed the flush toilets.

No comments: