Representative Fitzpatrick Pushes Bill for Allowing Unlicensed Child Daycare in Rural Missouri

If Rep. Scott Fitzpatrick, R-Shell Knob, gets his way, rural childcare facilities will be able to dispense of all State licensing requirements and create their own rules instead. Fitzpatrick has said his constituents in Barry County—including a woman who runs the daycare where his younger sister went as a child—and other rural areas don’t have the financial resources to meet the State’s many safety and other compliance standards for operating a daycare. He has said that requirements for adult-to-child ratios and enrollment caps impose a financial hardship on these facilities, causing many providers to contemplate shutting down.

Reversing Progress in Quality Early Childhood Development

Childcare advocates decry Fitzpatrick’s bill, saying that if passed, it would have the effect of reversing the positive strides that have been made over the past few years in providing Missouri children with quality early childhood development. Rep. Sheila Solon, R-Blue Springs, said that allowing rural childcare facilities to circumvent licensing standards would eliminate the State’s ability to shut  down dangerous facilities and investigate and monitor complaints lodged against providers.

In 2011, the St. Louis Post Dispatch wrote an investigative series on unlicensed childcare facilities. The investigation found that of the 56 Missouri childcare deaths between 2007 and 2011, all but six occurred in unlicensed facilities.  Shelly Blecha, mother of an infant who accidentally suffocated in 2007 while napping at a Jefferson County unlicensed day care home, said that the bill felt like a “slap in the face”. After her son Nathan’s death, she found that the woman to whom she had entrusted him was actually watching 10 children, including 4 of her grandchildren. Shelley helped to author “Nathan’s Law” to provide tighter regulations of daycare providers. Parts of Nathan’s bill passed last year.

A Permissive Environment for Unlicensed Providers in Barry County

Barry County has a long and onerous reputation for cultivating a climate favorable to unlicensed daycare providers. According to the St. Louis Post Dispatch, Barry County’s prosecutor, Johny Cox, has refused to prosecute any of the County’s unlicensed providers on at least two dozen occasions. Reports found the some of these facilities were caring for as many as 30 children, one of them out of a mobile home. Several of the unlicensed providers, recognizing that they are safe from prosecution, have refused to allow state inspectors inside their homes to survey conditions.

Whose Best Interest?

Fitzpatrick remains unfazed by criticism from the child advocate corner. He has said that if the State would just lower the requirements, maybe “some of these unlicensed folks [might] seek licensing”. That seems highly unlikely given the lack of fiscal incentive for meeting compliance standards. Barry has gone on record depicting these unlicensed providers and the parents who use them as already struggling financially. What would motivate unlicensed providers to cap the number of their paying clients?

Representative Jeremy LaFaver, D-Kansas City, has recently filed a bill for the second time in two years to bring thousands of unregulated childcare facilities under State regulation. He has said that he has reached out to Fitzpatrick to “find another solution”.

Another solution—one that prevents and protects our children from potential harm—should be aggressively supported by all of us. The tragedy of child injury and death in daycare settings is highly preventable, but only if there are adequate safeguards in place to ensure that the best interest of the child—not the provider—are served.

Consult with a Child Advocate and Top Personal Injury Trial Lawyer

If your child or the child of a loved one has been harmed either purposefully or through the negligence of a daycare provider, call us. We will not be deterred by the obstructive tactics of those who seek to defend a system that has failed even one child. Our top trial lawyers stand ready to help you. Call us for a free consultation to discuss your legal options: at 314-409-7060 or 855-40-CRASH (toll free).

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