Point of View

In jeopardy at legislature: Rules and regulations for restaurants, day cares and more

February 26, 2013 

This week, my husband and I are sending our youngest off to her first week in child care.

I’m a bit nervous about leaving her with new caregivers, but I’m not fearful. The center has a great reputation and an excellent star rating, and the teachers are smart and loving. We’re paying a breathtaking amount – more than our monthly mortgage payment in fact – to put our baby in a good place where she’ll be safe and well cared for.

I know she’ll be safe because our state has rigorous standards for child care centers. From safe sleep practices that can prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome to sanitation rules that prevent the spread of communicable disease and exposure to toxic chemicals, there is a broad set of rules designed to keep young children safe and healthy when they go to child care.

North Carolina’s child care regulators have learned from a lot of experience – including some they’d probably like to forget – how to do this. It’s experience I don’t have and truly would not want to have to learn. That’s what we’re paying for, and that’s why I and thousands of other North Carolina parents can have peace of mind when we drop off our babies with their caregivers every morning.

That’s also why I’m so frustrated with Reps. Tom Murry and Ruth Samuelson in our state legislature who have filed a bill to roll back all these child care rules. Not just child care rules, mind you.

House Bill 74, “Periodic Review and Expiration of Rules,” sounds like a nice idea until you realize that it will do a lot more than just review things. It will pull out the rug from under just about every set of standards we depend on. Rules for restaurant hygiene. Rules for pest control contractors. Rules for housing developers.

Almost any industry has a basic set of standards for its operation – and apparently some of them would rather not have to comply with rules.

Every parent knows that rules can be a very good thing. We don’t let the kids eat candy for dinner, and we don’t let them play in a busy road – even if they really, really want to. As a responsible parent, I have to enforce some basic rules to keep them safe. And I need to know that there are rules in place for the people we entrust with our children.

My husband and I both work, and staying at home with the kids just isn’t an option for either of us. We spent months looking for a good child care center, and I’m excited about the one we found. I’m glad I can walk in there with a basic set of expectations and head out to work every day without any worries. At least, no additional worries besides the runny nose or sleepless night that have me concerned on any given day.

Do I need to use a metaphor about state legislators throwing out the baby with the bathwater? Because that’s exactly what I’m worried about now.

Fawn Pattison is a mother of two young children in Raleigh. She’s also the director of Toxic Free NC, a nonprofit organization.

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