One of our goals at Community Coaching is to become a lens for the field, to help others see more clearly what the barriers to growth are in the field of family child care and asking the right questions to help them break them down. We have a quote from Albert Einstein on our website that drives our work: “If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask, for once I know the proper questions, I could solve the problem in less than five minutes.” Our goal is to do the work of those 55 minutes – to find the right questions to ask.
The data analysis we provide through our Balance Report© becomes the lens between an administrative body and a family child care business owner. When looking through it towards the administrative body it identifies the questions that can help dismantle systemic barriers. When looking through it towards the FCC business owner it identifies the questions that can identify which types of supports will make the biggest impact in moving the individual forward.
While we can provide recommendations for resource solutions that already exists in our field, our work is primarily on helping individuals and systems build a clearer view of the path to success, a better understanding of which resources could have the biggest impact.
In doing this work, we have begun to see more clearly one element that has become a massive barrier and needs to be questioned: licensing. As self-proclaimed “disruptors” it then compels us to pose the questions we see necessary and do all we can to get others asking these questions as well in order to move the field closer to the solution.
Specifically, our question is this: Why does the body of licensing rules for a child care program stem from FIRST asking the question “Does this business exist in your home?”
Not, “What are you licensed to do as an individual?” or “What health, safety, square footage, materials and equipment is your space capable of supporting in doing the business it wants to do?”
In other types of businesses, licensing is determined by:
1. What are you qualified/licensed to do?
2. Does the space support doing this business?
For example, if I want to open up a surgery center. I can build the space, fill it with operating tables, operating tools, and ensure it meets health and safety codes. THEN, I have to hire people that have been licensed to do that type of work – in other words, a surgeon. I can’t hire a psychologist to do surgery. I also can’t build a facility with only couches and notepads, hire a surgeon and do surgery there. The FACILITY and the PERSON are two separate things that have to be considered.
In the application for a license for a Pain Clinic in Wisconsin, a facility is licensed according to regulations for that type of work/business and then it states that it will be a facility where employees will be: “practicing within the scope of their licenses.” In other words, if you build a surgery center and you are licensed as a surgeon, you can do surgery in that facility, but if you are licensed as a nurse, you will only be able to do what nurses are licensed to do, despite having a facility that supports more.
Another example would be a mechanic who decides to open a business out of their home. They get the equipment they need for their shop or garage. They get a license for being a mechanic. And they are good to go. No one gives them a limit on how many cars they can fix because it’s a home based business. Same with a gardener. If they have the space to grow thousands of flowers, no one tells them they can only grow a dozen because it’s in their backyard.
This is where a family child care business owner gets held down. As a field, it is too often seen as “less than” a center or school, something those of us in this field have been fighting to overcome for years with only minimal headway. And so, the individual business owner is seen in this light as well. Yet, there are family child care business owners with Masters Degrees and even PhDs.
Under licensing for centers and school districts, the size of the student body is determined by square footage, with a maximum. A family child care business, by being separated off under the “in your home” category, is immediately limited to a significantly smaller maximum number of children. Even if they have the square footage. Even if they have the personal qualifications. In fact, if someone bought an identical house next to yours and licensed it as a center instead of family child care, they could fill it up with children. Only difference: who you said owned the walls when you approached licensing. If a business owns it – center. If your family owns it – family child care.
And, to add insult to injury, if you stick with the low numbers of children, and you do have the higher qualifications so you decide to become a partner in Head Start, Early Head Start or a School District PreK program, you will be required to have someone else (such as an Education Coordinator, Master Teacher, etc.) to oversee all you do because the assumption is that since you are family child care, you are not qualified to teach without supervision.
As NAEYC works with Power to the Profession to define the scope of license for early childhood education, we need to also be looking at the bigger picture of licensing – to create licensing standards that meet the needs of children and allow individuals to “practice within the scope of their licenses.” Not be held back because they own the walls.
It shouldn’t matter who owns the walls. We know as a field what a quality environment looks like. We know what a quality teacher looks like. Why does either change because we are looking through the lens of who owns the walls?
This is not to suggest we have one set of licensing standards. But it is suggesting that we start addressing the right questions to find the best solution.
We know the problem – family child care as a field has barriers to growth.
So let’s spend 55 minutes to think about the right question to ask. Even if that means disrupting an entire system. We’re game. Are you?