CHILD CARE: Choosing A Provider

The violent mauling death of a Prairie City girl earlier this week is still on the minds of many. At the time of the attack, the young girl was with her babysitter. The woman worked from her home. She was not a registered, or licensed, child care provider, and in Iowa, that’s not unusual.

Cathy Wheatcraft with Child Care Resource and Referral of Central Iowa said many parents assume that all child care providers, including those providing in-home care, are licensed, and checked out by the state. But that’s not true in Iowa.

“Iowa is ranked very low amongst the other states because of the lack of regulation and oversight we have, particularly with homes,” said Wheatcraft, “it’s important that parents really understand the system because centers are licensed and inspected annually and have standards they have to maintain. Homes on the other hand are only registered, and they may or may not be inspected.”

Wheatcraft said that means the burden falls on parent’s shoulders.

“I don`t think there’s any question people should hesitate to ask when their visiting the home. You should ask to see the whole home,” said Wheatcraft, “Ask for references, ask to talk to current and previous parents.”

Wheatcraft also encourages parents to do background checks and criminal history checks, explaining that nobody else will do them for you. She also suggests several face to face visits at the provider’s home, both planned and unannounced. She says to ask for references, and suggests personally speaking with current and previous parents who use that provider’s care.

Heather Helton, an in-home provider in Prairie City said that rarely happens- she’s never been asked her criminal history, and rarely even asked about her dog.

“We encourage people to ask that, and are the pets around the children are they confined from the children, but some providers aren’t going to bring that up unless the parent does and its important information to know,” explained Wheatcraft.

Only in home providers caring for six or more children has to be registered with the state. Unregistered home providers do not get background checks.