In Irving Township, Michigan, there's a mom who decided to help out three of her neighbors by allowing their children into her home each morning for about an hour while they waited for the school bus.
The school year had hardly begun when Lisa Snyder received a letter from state regulators who oversee childcare in Michigan. When they got wind of Ms. Snyder allowing children who were not related to her stay in her home, the state regulators did not agree that this was a charitable gesture on her part. Instead the Michigan Department of Human Services sent her a letter of warning. In it, they stated that if she continued allowing the girls to wait for the bus at her home, she'd be violating a law which was aimed at the regulating operators of unlicensed day care centers.
"I was freaked out. I was blown away," she said. "I got on the phone immediately, called my husband, then I called all the girls" - meaning her friends whose children waited for the bus in her home - "every one of them." She also called the agency to explain that she wasn't running a daycare center or accepting money from her friends.
Well, it appears that Snyder's situation has caused quite a debate in Michigan. There's discussion now about this law that apparently says no one can "care for unrelated children in their home for more than four weeks each calendar year unless they are a licensed day-care provider". This is one law that definitely needs to be changed. It has upset several parents who say they depend on friends to help them balance work and family in similar ways.
Finally, someone got some common sense! MDHS Director Ismael Ahmed has agreed that good neighbors should be allowed to help each other ensure their children are safe without fear of recrimination. "Being a good neighbor means helping your neighbors who are in need," Ahmed said. "This could be as simple as providing a cup of sugar, monitoring their house while they're on vacation or making sure their children are safe while they wait for the school bus."
Governor Jennifer Granholm acted quickly and instructed Ahmed to work with the state Legislature to change the law. The new legislation is supposed to make it clear that people who aren't in the business of providing daycare will not need to be licensed in order to watch their friends' children.
When is it a crime to do good? When a government agency determines a way to license or otherwise control that sector, or if an activity is such that there is the least inference, that there is a violation they can move in to take control. It's a dangerous world we live in today - and that danger isn't coming from the lawless - it's coming from the law makers!