Increase availability of affordable child care

Affordable child care is essential to the country’s economic recovery and to many families’ financial stability. Unfortunately, finding affordable child care is a challenge. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, working parents faced limited options and rising costs.

Altagracia Yluminada “Ilumi” Sanchez runs a day care in her home in Northeast D.C. She has over 20 years of experience working with children, is trusted by nine local families, and even holds a Child Development Associate credential. But in 2016, the District of Columbia enacted regulations requiring daycare providers to obtain an Associate’s degree or risk the loss of their home-grown businesses. Her reputation and credentials are not enough to overcome this hurdle, as fulfilling this requirement would require sacrificing valuable time Ilumi could spend earning money for her own family and providing care to children whose parents must go to work. Now more than ever, Ilumi’s services are needed—both for her own livelihood and for the affordable care she provides to her community.

But the COVID-19 pandemic has made child care even less accessible. Many child care centers have been forced to close, leaving parents with even fewer options. Working parents are now struggling to balance work and caretaking responsibilities and face a barrier to returning to their workplaces without quality child care. Additionally, center closures have left more than 258,000 workers without jobs.

States can increase access to child care and to job opportunities by removing barriers to safely providing small-scale, in-home child care.

Licensing requirements for child care providers vary state by state.  States often require child care providers to become licensed, which includes multiple inspections, education requirements, facility requirements, fees, and even government-mandated menus and schedules.

While many states exempt in-home child care from licensure requirements to some degree, the breadth of these exemptions vary state by state.

  • Some states exempt in-home child care of up to six children.
  • Other states require in-home providers to become fully licensed if the provider cares for just one child.

Basic child care needs do not change from state to state and neither should requirements for in-home child care services.

Policymakers in states with narrow exemptions—that require licensure if more than one or two children are cared for in the home—should allow home providers to care for additional children if they can safely do so.  States can exempt in-home providers from complex daycare licensing requirements and simply require providers to register with the state. States can also ensure that zoning laws do not prevent people from offering in-home child care.

The Institute for Justice can research the laws and regulations in your state and make recommendations for common sense reform.

In-home child care is an affordable solution for parents and creates opportunities for displaced child care workers. It is provided by an individual, who is not the parent, in a private residence and is a very common alternative to child care centers. Typically, in-home child care providers are recommended through word of mouth and are vetted by their communities.

Providing in-home child care is also an accessible option for aspiring entrepreneurs or the currently unemployed who have child care experience. The start-up costs are relatively low, and it can provide a lucrative means of income.

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