The Colorado Department of Human Services Knows, In Terrifying Detail, What Is Best For Your Children.

Politics & Current Events

Most of us probably expect the government to regulate child care businesses to a certain extent, with sensible rules like "no open sewers" and "no chainsaw juggling" and "no registered sex offenders working as nurses," and so forth.

But such minimalistic regulations ignore an important fact: people in government are much smarter than we are and know much better exactly how our children should be cared for. And when I say exactly, I mean "with an unsettling, Rain-Man-like level of obsessive specificity."

For example, I give you the recently proposed Colorado Department of Human Services Proposed Child Care Center Rules, which have gotten a certain amount of coverage.

It's not easy to mix worrying vagueness and unmedicated-OCD-level detail, but the Colorado Department of Human Services manages. Its 98 pages of dense regulations for child care centers range from the catch-all-provision-allowing-regulators-to-do-anything-they-want . . . .

ALL PERSONNEL SHALL REFRAIN FROM CONDUCT THAT WOULD ENDANGER THE SAFETY OR WELL BEING OF CHILDREN.

. . . . to the terrifying, future-dystopian micro-regulation of common human activities, like two pages with multiple points and sub-points precisely dictating all adult and child hand-washing.

You may think that you, as a parent, are capable of choosing a child care center based on its staff, curriculum, equipment, and approach to learning. You may think that you can best determine, in consultation with the child care center staff, what your child should be doing all day. The CDHS disagrees. The CDHS knows better than you, for instance, exactly how much screen time your child should have per day, and when and how it may be viewed:

TELEVISION, VIDEO, AND COMPUTER TIME IS LIMITED TO 20 MINUTES PER DAY UNLESS IT IS A SPECIAL OCCASION.
4. TELEVISION AND VIDEO VIEWING SHALL NOT BE ALLOWED FOR CHILDREN UNDER THE AGE OF TWO (2).
5 TELEVISION, VIDEO AND COMPUTER TIME SHALL NOT BE AVAILABLE DURING SNACK OR MEAL TIMES.

You may think that your child care center can determine by itself which toys to stock, and that maybe you'll supplement it with donations. Once again, you're wrong. The CDHS knows, down to the number of paintbrushes and the type and number of blocks, what kind of toys your child should play with:

EACH INFANT AND TODDLER CLASSROOM SHALL HAVE AT LEAST ONE (1) SET OF 6 OR MORE SOFT VINYL OR PLASTIC
BLOCKS.

SCHOOL AGE BLOCKS AND ACCESSORIES
A. EACH CLASSROOM SHALL HAVE AT LEAST TWO (2) SETS OF BLOCKS WITH A MINIMUM OF TEN (10) BLOCKS PER SET.
B. EACH CLASSROOM SHALL HAVE A VARIETY OF AT LEAST FIVE (5) ACCESSORIES FOR EACH BLOCK SET. THE ACCESSORIES
SHALL BE STORED WITH THE BLOCK SETS AND SHALL BE REPRESENTATIVE OF PEOPLE, ANIMALS, TRANSPORTATION ETC.

Speaking of toys, maybe your kid isn't Anglo. Mine aren't. Do you care if the child care center has non-white dolls? Would you like to donate (for instance) an Asian doll, like we did, so your kid will have a doll that looks like him or her? Or do you not care? It doesn't matter, your government has regulated doll ethnicity for you:

DOLLS SHALL REPRESENT THREE (3) RACES.

Do you think you can work out the details of things like whether your child wears a sweater, and when and if your child wears sunscreen? Fool. The government knows, in queasy detail, exactly how your child should be protected from Mr. Sun:

D. Sun Protection
1. THE CENTER SHALL INFORM PARENTS OR GUARDIANS,
THROUGH THE POLICIES AND PROCEDURES STATEMENT OR AN
AUTHORIZATION FORM, THAT SUNSCREEN WILL BE APPLIED TO
THE CHILDREN’S EXPOSED SKIN PRIOR TO OUTSIDE PLAY. A
DOCTOR’S PERMISSION IS NOT NEEDED TO USE SUNSCREEN AT
THE CENTER. PARENTS OR GUARDIANS SHALL NOTIFY THE
CENTER STAFF IF SUNSCREEN HAS BEEN APPLIED TO THE
CHILD’S SKIN PRIOR TO ARRIVING AT THE CENTER.
2. SUNSCREEN SHALL BE APPLIED ACCORDING TO THE
MANUFACTURER’S INSTRUCTIONS FOR APPLICATION AND IN
ACCORDANCE WITH THE MANUFACTURER’S RECOMMENDED
AGE FOR USE.
1. The center must obtain the parent or guardian's written authorization and
instructions for applying sunscreen to their children's exposed skin prior
to outside play. A doctor's permission is not needed to use sunscreen at
the center.
23. When supplied for an individual child, the sunscreen must SHALL be
labeled with the child's first and last name.
3. 4. If sunscreen is provided by the center, parents must SHALL be notified
in advance, in writing, of the type of sunscreen the center will use.
45. Children over FOUR (4) years of age may ARE ALLOWED TO apply
sunscreen to themselves under the direct supervision of a staff member.
6. A WRITTEN STATEMENT FROM A CHILD’S HEALTH CARE
PROVIDER AND PARENT OR GUARDIAN IS NEEDED IF
DRAFT–PROPOSED CHILD CARE CENTER RULES–04/28/11–DRAFT
Revised on September 7, 2010 45 of 98
SUNSCREEN IS NOT TO BE APPLIED. A WRITTEN PLAN TO
PROTECT THE CHILD FROM OVER EXPOSURE TO THE SUN SHALL
BE IN PLACE AND KNOWN TO STAFF CARING FOR THE CHILD.

You might think that such detail is unnecessary. But the CDHS — and government entities like it — are staffed with people who are more attuned to the particular needs of your child than you. If it weren't for their superior grasp of your child's well being, there is a clear and present danger that your child's sunscreen might be labeled with only her first or last name, not both. THAT, my friend, is what proper regulation can do for YOUR family.

See, the CDHS and its staff are part of the global village necessary to raise your child. They are kin to the concerned folks everywhere who, through litigation or regulation, would like to help you raise your children by regulating their pets and walking habits and Happy Meal contents and anything else that concerned, important people can think of. This is a Good Thing, particularly in this economy. Folks need jobs. If the CDHS' staffers weren't paid with your tax dollars to sit around and think of exactly how your child's day should be spent, how would they feed their own families?

If this level of state control creeps you out, don't worry. The government will never be able to regulate the core of your child-care experience — the personal relationships you develop with your kids' teachers and child-care workers, relationships that often develop into friendships. The government can't regulate human interaction on that level . . . .

CHILDREN SHOULD BE GREETED INDIVIDUALLY AND
PLEASANTLY UPON ARRIVAL AND DEPARTURE

. . . . yet.

Last 5 posts by Ken White

32 Comments

28 Comments

  1. TJIC  •  Jul 12, 2011 @9:50 am

    > CHILDREN SHOULD BE GREETED INDIVIDUALLY AND
    PLEASANTLY UPON ARRIVAL AND DEPARTURE

    I'm not sure if that was capitalized in the original, or when you posted it here.

    …but I prefer to believe the former.

    The idea of a pleasant greeting being mandated in terrifying all-caps letters is delicious.

    THE COMPUTER IS YOUR FRIEND, TROUBLESHOOTER!

  2. Mark Thompson  •  Jul 12, 2011 @10:25 am

    A prediction/under-discussed side effect of hyper-regulation:

    1. Attempts will be made to spend CDHS resources on the enforcement of these regulation.

    2. These attempts will be justified by the complaints of hypersensitive parents that certain of the regulations are not being adequately followed.

    3. Some daycare center(s) will more or less comply with these new regulations; this will cause them to comply less well with other, more fundamental regulations (e.g., they will be less willing to call 911 if a child is significantly hurt because they don't want to get nailed for some trivial violation of the new rules that gets discovered as a result of the emergency services call). Other daycare centers who were already not very interested in complying with more fundamental regulations will have no problem complying with the new regulations and may find themselves less scrutinized.

    4. Children will get hurt as a result of less observance of more fundamental safety concepts. Parents who complain about these injuries to the state will see their complaint investigated much as the complaints in number 2 above.

    5. Eventually, a mini-scandal will erupt when something really bad happens at a particular daycare center.

    6. People will ask why the CDHS didn't do a better job of keeping an eye on this outrageously unsafe daycare center.

    7. CDHS will complain about a lack of resources to enforce its regulations.

    8a. Liberals will shout about how this proves that businesses cannot be left to their own devices and how it proves the need for tight regulation. Suggestions that maybe the useless regulations contributed to the problem here will be dismissed as laughable.

    8b. CDHS will get more resources to enforce its regulations. It will not get rid of or stop enforcing the silly new regulations so as to more prudently expend its existing resources on actual problems.

  3. Matt  •  Jul 12, 2011 @10:31 am

    If the choices are either this, or open sewers and chainsaw juggling…well, bring on the open sewers and the chainsaws, and bring them on pronto!

    The day is coming when the actual regulations from the actual government make even the most absurd parodies of the libertarian position look sensible in comparison.

  4. CTrees  •  Jul 12, 2011 @10:47 am

    The level of capitalization takes this from unfortunately expected to "someone played WAAAYYYY too much Paranoia, and always as Friend Computer."

  5. Ken  •  Jul 12, 2011 @10:49 am

    To be fair, I think the capitalization is supposed to help distinguish proposed amended terms from original terms.

  6. Wilhelm Arcturus  •  Jul 12, 2011 @10:54 am

    One wonders how we survived as children without such guidance.

    I was shipped off to my grandparents farm in the very sunny California central valley most summers, where sunscreen consisted of a cowboy hat along with a reminder to put on said hat if I was going outside, and I was always going outside.

    And while I probably met the TV requirements above, and was not allowed anywhere near the table saw in the barn (that was dangerous), my grandfather was happy enough to give 8 year old me a baby food jar full of .22 bird shot and a bolt action rifle and offer a bounty for every starling I could take down. They ate the plums and the figs. And yet I lived. And nobody else died. Except the birds.

    I do love the precision in defining what a set of blocks consists of, though a set of 6 or even 10 blocks would rank as "disappointing" to younger me I am sure.

    But a pleasant greeting seems awfully vague. Should they smile? Should they show teeth with said smile? Or is the right tone of voice enough?

  7. doug  •  Jul 12, 2011 @12:54 pm

    dang, my kids just watched Lady and the Tramp.

  8. Steve  •  Jul 12, 2011 @2:18 pm

    My favorite is DOLLS SHALL REPRESENT THREE (3) RACES.
    Who gets to decide which 3?

  9. mojo  •  Jul 12, 2011 @2:22 pm

    "In the beginning, God created idiots. That was for practice. He then created School Boards."
    – Mark Twain

  10. SPQR  •  Jul 12, 2011 @2:42 pm

    These are regulations for child care … but don't you dare ask how children fare when under the direct control of Colorado human services …

    I would link to the many stories about how children in the control of Colorado's foster care system end up dead or injured, but I refuse to link to the Denver Post since it is part of the Righthaven extortion racket.

  11. Melody  •  Jul 12, 2011 @5:18 pm

    And while they expand their micromanagement of licensed centers–the deaprtment of human services allows unlicensed childcare to explode in the state of Colorado. Licensed centers are financially burdened so much already–an by no means on a level playing ground. DHS also grants extraordinary amounts of waivers for their burdensome regulations to public entities–kill the private sector! Birth to death management of our lives by government!

  12. perlhaqr  •  Jul 12, 2011 @5:55 pm

    I'm reminded of the scene from A Wrinkle in Time where the children are all playing outside, and bouncing their balls precisely in time, except for the one kid who is later tortured.

  13. Pete  •  Jul 13, 2011 @5:11 am

    Are we sure this bill/set of regulations wasn't written by a lobbyist for Big Daycare? Me being the suspicious and distrustful jerk that I am… I'm wagering that there is already a chain of daycare centers that already practices most of those policies, down to the minimum of three ethnic groups represented via doll.

    The passage/adoption/enforcement of these regulations will lead to a lot of smaller places closing, as well as introduce a barrier to entry to any would-be newcomers.

  14. Melody  •  Jul 13, 2011 @6:16 am

    I'm sure this isn't big day care–none of us in the field want to be put through all of the regulation which equals much bigger costs for supervision by the state–but your conclusion about the consequences for smaller providers is correct–the more burdensome the costs of regulation the more difficult for the small guys to survive. And remember–who really benefits isn't private companies of any size–its the power the government grants itself to assure what and how children are raised!

  15. Rich  •  Jul 13, 2011 @7:16 am

    Ah, NYC (naturally) already has the sunscreen regulations. I had to sign a consent form for the day care workers to apply sunscreen and provide sunscreen, if i don't then daycare applies it and charges me $2/week to do so. Same thing when the little one needed diaper creme, I had to give written authorization. And had to do so weekly for obscure reasons blamed on NYC Dept of Health.

  16. d-day  •  Jul 13, 2011 @9:29 am

    Having had to sign a two-page explanation and acknowledgement sheet for my kid's daycare recently, this doesn't surprise me too much. The rules on behavior and discipline in my state do. My sister in law works in a childcare center, and she tells me that it is ILLEGAL to put kids in time out for misbehaving, or to give out stickers as rewards for good behavior.

    State regulation forbids any child from being segregated from the main group of children for disciplinary or punitive reasons, although they may be segregated from the group if they want to, and no child should be singled out for any reward unless rewards are given to all children, and rewards cannot be conditioned on specific behaviors.

    I have no idea how they manage to keep order in their classrooms (to the extent that they actually do).

  17. Brooks  •  Jul 13, 2011 @8:02 pm

    "Why thank you for your kind offer to donate an asian doll to our collection. Unfortunately, we already have dolls representing the mandatory three (3) races, and the language of the regulations does not permit us to exceed that."

  18. ScottH  •  Jul 13, 2011 @9:02 pm

    They're developing a Building Code for every aspect of life, it seems.

    Thanks to this post I discovered I'm now required by law to come up with a written Accessible Customer Service Plan for myself. I was looking for a link to Guelph's Facility Accessibility Design Manual and found this on the city's accessibility web page:

    New standards impact private sector business

    The Ontario Government is developing new accessibility standards in the areas of customer service, transportation, information and communications, employment, and the built environment. The Accessible Customer Service Standard is now law. Private sector businesses referred to in the Accessible Standards for Customer Services are to be compliant by January 1, 2012. Please visit the Ministry of Community and Social Services website for more information and AccessOn.ca for business resources.

    That led me to this page:

    http://www.mcss.gov.on.ca/en/mcss/programs/accessibility/customerService/

    One employee? I'm subject to it. The full law is here:

    http://www.e-laws.gov.on.ca/html/source/regs/english/2011/elaws_src_regs_r11191_e.htm#BK15

    Maximum fine is $50,000 for an individual. I'm so glad I got out of retail.

  19. Wayne Clemons  •  Jul 13, 2011 @9:06 pm

    The CDHS is perfect. The CDHS demands your loyalty. Trust the CDHS, it does not make mistakes. Failure to obey The CDHS is Treason. In order to keep Junior Citizens loyal and happy, CDHS has implemented regulations intended to promote activities that will ensure loyal and happy Junior Citizens. Happiness is Mandatory. Failure to obey CDHS regulations is Treason. Failure to report Treasonous activities to CDHS is considered Treason. Reading any of the words contained within this post without appropriate security clearance is considered Treason. If you believe you have committed Treason, please proceed directly to your nearest available Termination Booth. Have a nice daycycle!

  20. Carol  •  Jul 15, 2011 @9:36 am

    Unfortunately, this is what the world has come to — not only because of an over-arching bureaucracy, but because of the parents who will sue everyone and anyone, instead of actually parenting their children.

  21. D  •  Jul 21, 2011 @1:22 pm

    Ken, you are just tweeked because you are a cute little Asian boy (per you pic) and it doesn't specify that you get exclusive rights to play with the Asian doll.

  22. Melody  •  Jul 21, 2011 @4:30 pm

    And it's not just how many and what kind of doll. Just think how we are paying these experts to count how many markers, blocks, crayons, are being provided–the new regs are literally that specific–how far reaching into our lives and business are we going to allow government to get?

  23. vegas710  •  Jul 24, 2011 @5:48 pm

    Wow, it's been a long time since I've commented here. While some of these restrictions seem to be pushing it a little I'm all for better regulation of child care facilities. I've worked in a few that I would never send my children to… unless that is, it's the only one that accepts vouchers that's on my bus route. See where I'm going?
    My sister works in a facility right now and as soon as she leaves I'm reporting their crazy asses. Better regulation would mean a few things in this situation:
    1) Ratios would be maintained at all times
    2) Young children would not spend the entire afternoon watching tv
    3) Children would be fed real food, at the very least their lunch would not consist solely of nacho cheese sauce poured over macaroni
    4) The building would be locked as there is no one monitoring the halls and no way for the teachers to alert authorities in the case of an emergency
    5) Every room would have unobstructed windows
    6) There would be adequate and safe outdoor play space for the children and it would be utilized

    It's a nice luxury to choose your child care provider based on your values but we are not all able to do that. I've seen far too many bad daycare facilities to believe they could be effectively market-controlled.

  24. melody  •  Jul 25, 2011 @7:07 am

    Here's the problem Vegas710–
    all of the complaints you list about the center your sister works in are already in regulation or fire code–TV viewing, meal nutrition, ratios, all of them. If this center is so poor and unsafe in practice how is it that DHS hasn't already shut them down. Ratios in particular are enough to order a cease and desist. REGULATION ISN"T THE ANSWER. More regulation drive kids into illegal and totally unsupervised care–and statistically that is where most serious injuries and death still happen. Turn them in now or you aren't doing what's right by the kids. Period.

  25. vegas710  •  Jul 25, 2011 @10:32 pm

    I'm not asking for more rules, just better enforcement. But just out of curiosity, how does regulation drive kids into dangerous situations? I get the theory, if daycares can't afford to meet regulations then parents have to find alternative care. I've just never seen that actually happen.
    I think what put me off in this post was the nanny-state language. For instance:
    "You may think that you, as a parent, are capable of choosing a child care center based on its staff, curriculum, equipment, and approach to learning. You may think that you can best determine, in consultation with the child care center staff, what your child should be doing all day. The CDHS disagrees. The CDHS knows better than you, for instance, exactly how much screen time your child should have per day, and when and how it may be viewed"

    As for the first part, no, most parents can't choose a center based on those criteria. Location, hours and cost are usually the reluctant top priority. For the huge portion of the population that is stuck with whatever center they can find, the regulations help ensure a better level of care. The second part is right in line with the tone throughout the whole post. I think the cries are premature. I think it's disingenuous to make these claims that "they think they know better than you" when this is clearly not aimed at parents but at childcare providers.

  26. D  •  Jul 26, 2011 @8:05 am

    @vegas
    You appear to be offended by the rhetorical style Ken chose to employ. At a guess, it is not one you would choose to use. Beyond that, I'm wondering, do you disagree with the substance of the report? Do you think all childcare providers need the micromanagement? If so, does the government even have the right to impose these requirements on private businesses? Show me the state constitution (approved by popular vote, thereby receiving the mandate of the people) that grants that authority. I think that is what Ken was implying.

    If I am reading your first post correctly, you are frustrated that one childcare center in particular is subpar and that the state is not regulating them as it is. Will the passage of an onerous law result in greater or less adherence to the law? A law affects all such businesses unilaterally, whether they are good daycares or not.

    Finally, what is the best way to address your grievances? Should you try to goad the government into acting as guns for hire? Maybe have a mature conversation with them – seek to understand then to be understood? Come up with a mutually agreeable solution? I'm rooting for you, sister. -peace

  27. vegas710  •  Jul 26, 2011 @1:23 pm

    It's not about one center, it's about thousands of centers in low-income areas. As I already stated, I'm not advocating for tougher regulations, just tougher enforcement.

    "Show me the state constitution (approved by popular vote, thereby receiving the mandate of the people) that grants that authority."
    I have no idea what gives the state the right to regulate childcare centers. I'd assume it's the same thing that gives them the right to regulate the food industry, foster homes, nursing homes, hair salons etc. I'm glad for the regulations but let me be clear, the proposed regulations in Colorado clearly go too far.

    As for Ken's rhetorical style, you're right, that's really where my issue lies. He uses extremes (nanny-state, ZOMG!) to ignite fear and sensationalize what will likely be a non-issue. Making this an issue about the state telling us how to parent is misleading.

  28. Arizona baby care  •  Sep 26, 2011 @1:51 pm

    I agree these regulations have gone too far. When you have more then one location the regulations cannot be the same for every daycare center. Why does state and govenrment get to decide these regulations. They arent the ones working at these facilities.

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