ABC News today reported that Lisa Snyder, a Michigan mom, received a letter from the state telling her that she is violating a law by babysitting neighborhood children in her home for a brief time each morning before the school bus picks them up.
Regulators who oversee child care, however, don't see it as charity. Days after the start of the new school year, Snyder received a letter from the Michigan Department of Human Services warning her that if she continued she'd be violating a law aimed at the operators of unlicensed day care centers.
Needless to say, Lisa Snyder was concerned, and she responded by phoning her husband and all the mothers whose kids she watches.
The law. Michigan law says that a person must be a licensed day-care provider to care for unrelated children in his or her home for more than four weeks each calendar year unless they are licensed. Snyder says that this law needs to be changed to take into consideration parents who depend on friendly offers such as Lisa Snyder's to help them balance work and family.
The good news. On Tuesday, agency Director Ismael Ahmed said good neighbors should be allowed to help each other ensure their children are safe. Gov. Jennifer Granholm instructed Ahmed to work with the state Legislature to change the law, he said.
"Being a good neighbor means helping your neighbors who are in need," Ahmed said in a written statement. "This could be as simple as providing a cup of sugar, monitoring their house while they're on vacation or making sure their children are safe while they wait for the school bus."
Governor Granholm's prompt response. Granholm spokeswoman Liz Boyd said the agency was following standard procedure in its response to a neighbor's complaint . . . apparently motivated because the children's normal behavior disturbed the neighbor. Boyd said: "We feel this [law] really gets in the way of common sense."
"We want to protect kids, but the law needs to be reasonable," she said. "When the governor learned of this, she acted quickly and called the director personally to ask him to intervene."
Not to worry. Two things then occurred.
One. The Michigan Department of Human Services Director Ismael Ahmed said Tuesday in a written statement that Gov. Jennifer Granholm had instructed him to work with the state Legislature to change the law. See Fox News here Bravo! The quick response is admirable.
Two. In addition, ‘twould be difficult to enforce the law when the entire DHS appears to have been laid off. I am alerted by a fellow lawyer that a Michigan DHS caseworker just received this letter today, and I presume that it was also received by all DHS workers:
Dear DHS team: [Ya gotta love it . . . they are going to lay you off . . . but they are appealing to your team spirit . . ]
In a letter or through a posting dated September 15, 2009, you were provided notice that in the event there is no approved spending plan for state government in place on October 1 you would be temporarily laid off.
Because the Michigan Legislature has failed as of 2 p.m. today to meet its constitutional responsibility to enact a balanced budget for the fiscal year that begins October 1, 2009, that notice remains in effect. You are temporarily laid off effective 12:01 a.m. on October 1, 2009, until a spending plan is in place or you are otherwise notified.
A bill authorizing the continued expenditure of state funds has been approved by both the Michigan House of Representatives and Michigan Senate but has not been given immediate effect by the Senate. If and when the Senate gives immediate effect to this continuation budget and the bill is signed into law by the governor, the Executive Office will notify news organizations and post a notice on www.michigan.gov. You are directed to monitor those reports for updated information, because in the event of action by the Michigan Senate or other action to authorize expenditures for Fiscal Year 2010, you will be expected to report to work for the balance of your shift or for your next scheduled shift as appropriate.
I know these have been difficult times for you and all of us who serve the public in state government. We appreciate your patience and continued service to the citizens of Michigan.
Don’t kill the messenger. Times are tough and the tough have to get going. First, we need people to advocate for what is required to keep DHS on board. The safety and lives of children and the elderly (at the very least) depend upon this oversight.
As for children: Imagine having a wonderful neighbor such as Lisa Snyder who will make sure that your kids are safe while they are waiting for the bus! I know that Governor Granholm and Ismael Ahmed are in accord. Now what we need is some prompt action by our state legislators to take this caring neighborhood friend and mom off the hot seat.