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
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
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.