Common Good Iowa

Child care proposal opens up teens to unsafe conditions

Posted on January 29, 2024 at 9:56 AM by Sheila Hansen

A bill that would allow 16-year-olds to care for babies and toddlers without direct supervision has appeared at the Statehouse again this year. Given current ratio rules, they could potentially be left by themselves to care for four infants, or seven toddlers, or 10 3-year-olds.

If you remember, the same bill was proposed in 2022, but was eventually amended before it was passed and signed by the Governor. The amendment allowed 16-year-olds to care only for school-aged children without direct supervision (meaning the supervisor is in the same room).

We oppose allowing 16-year-olds to be left alone to care for younger children.

Imagine yourself at 16, all by yourself and in a room with seven toddlers ...

In one corner of the room are Emma and Joseph, who are both potty training, and you look over and see them doing the little dance that toddlers do when they need to go — right now ...

But in the other corner you see Julio and Lilly fighting over a block, and Lilly is just about to bite Julio ...

But you have Cade holding on to your leg, and he won’t let go because he hasn’t been feeling very good ...

On the other side of you is Arman who keeps telling you he’s hungry — but snack time isn’t for another hour ...

And, let’s not forget Jonah. He’s pushed a little chair across the room and is now climbing on the chair to try to reach the crayons on the counter.

Which very real scenario do you react to first?

Child care is a challenging and fast-paced job. The safety of children in child care should be our number one priority.

We welcome older teenagers to the field and think they are a great addition to a classroom when they are under direct supervision. We want them to be set up for success. Why are we risking safety and potentially the 16-year-old’s future in the workforce?

Iowa needs more providers in the child care workforce. But there are much better ways to attract and retain them. Most importantly, we can pay them more! The state should reimburse providers at 100% of the current Market Rate Survey and implement the recommendations of the 2023 Iowa Child Care Workforce Study.

If lawmakers approve this bill, Iowa would be the only state to allow 16-year-olds to be left alone with babies and toddlers. This isn’t something we should be a leader in.

Categories: Child care

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