If you haven’t read the investigative piece about day-care safety reports hidden from the public, printed in Sunday’s AJC and available online, you really should do so. Among other things, it’s a reminder that government oversight of an industry often creates nothing more than a false sense of security for that industry’s customers.
Day cares in Georgia (and most other states, I’d be willing to bet) must have a state-issued license in order to operate. It has to be renewed annually. A parents might inspect the day care personally before enrolling Junior there. But it would be typical, and reasonable, for a parent to assume the day care meets certain minimum standards if its license was granted and later renewed.
Instead, the AJC investigation found, more than a third of the day cares in Georgia had been deemed — by state regulators — out of compliance with state health and safety standards at least once in the past four years. The vast majority of them, even those with multiple years of non-compliance, were allowed to stay open.
Yet, the state did not publicly release the reports detailing these businesses’ shortcomings. (The AJC obtained them through an open records request.)
While some of these failures might be on minor points, some of them seem pretty major to this parent, including failure by some day cares to run background checks on people before hiring them. That’s a pretty basic thing: Even my relatively small church runs background checks before letting parents volunteer in the children’s ministry.
So, the state requires a license for a day care to operate and checks up on day cares to make sure they are complying with state laws — but then doesn’t close down the worst offenders and doesn’t tell parents about the problems so that they can decide for themselves.
That’s the same kind of false security that played out in the recent financial meltdown. One doesn’t have to get into the merits of repealing Glass-Steagall restrictions or passing the Community Reinvestment Act to recognize that banks’ risk was artificially and irresonsibly heightened because of faulty ratings of the mortgage-backed securities and a flawed international regulatory regime (Basel II), which not only allowed but incentivized banks to load up on these riskier-than-believed investments.
The old line still applies: Caveat emptor. And you’ll be more likely to follow it if you also heed the warning against believing government can regulate and monitor the risks or problems out of life.
– By Kyle Wingfield