Faith-Based Daycares on the Rise in Indiana March 14, 2012

Faith-Based Daycares on the Rise in Indiana

To regulate or not to regulate, this should NOT be the question.

As if the tax breaks, exemptions, special treatment and hypocrisy of the church and government relationship were not enough, now we return to address the safety and welfare of our children.

Currently, Indiana law (and the law in many other states) permits religious nonprofits to simply register their daycares, and not actually license them, thus avoiding most state oversight. Most faith-based daycares obviously choose that route, fearing more government regulation would be arduous and could restrict religious expression — we should be so lucky.

There have been several attempts to abolish this licensing disparity in the legislature, but as you can imagine, the threat of government intrusion on religion has aided its survival. This certainly isn’t new “news,” but the battle ensues.

In Indiana, the number of faith-based daycare centers has skyrocketed in recent years, and they now outnumber licensed daycares — both religious and nonreligious. There are 730 unlicensed faith-based daycare centers in Indiana, compared with 601 licensed day cares.

The difference in health and safety standards between licensed centers and unlicensed faith-based daycares is immense — with the former abiding by 192 rules while the latter abides by only 21. The biggest difference, and perhaps the one that raises the most concern, is in the number of adults who must be present at daycares. For licensed centers, it’s one adult for every four infants and every five toddlers.

There is no ratio requirement for unlicensed centers.

Children’s advocates have urged the legislature to make changes, claiming that such lack of regulation could lead to danger for children. Sadly, it already has.

The drowning last month of a 1-year-old boy at a church day care has rekindled debate over whether the state should require all church-related daycares to be licensed.

“A lot of these places are not even passing the sniff test,” said Ted Maple, director of the Success By 6 program at the United Way of Central Indiana, which helps unlicensed faith-based day cares strengthen their safety standards. “We’ve seen some places in such disrepair they have no business being in business. We have two sets of rules here, and this is our children we’re talking about.”

Not surprisingly, many religious organizations and conservative groups strongly oppose legislature that would mandate ALL childcare facilities to be licensed, citing that it would impose on their religious freedoms and “once a child care is licensed by the state, the government can control what goes on inside the walls, including at Sunday school.”

“We follow a lot of rules already, so the question would be, ‘How much more do they want?’ ” said Stephanie Dill, director of Crosstown Daycare, a faith-based center in Greenfield.

What more do we want?! Oh, I don’t know, perhaps just peace of mind that children are healthy and safe, there’s some accountability for the day-to-day operations of childcare facilities, and maybe, just maybe, the elimination of special treatment for religious “rights”?

The irony is that there are some faith-based facilities that have chosen to become licensed. They currently receive federal funding (not sure how I feel about that one) and have to meet many health and safety and employment regulations… and, lo and behold, the government has not once interfered with their teachings.

“That’s a common misconception and a false argument,” Maple said. “The state is not interested in telling you how to conduct business. There are a lot of falsehoods out there.”

This appears to be the case…

“I’ve never once in 10 years had anyone from the state come in here and tell us what we can teach,” said Dan Cramer, director of Westside Christian Preschool/Child Care. “If they did, I wouldn’t take their money.”

At St. Mary’s Child Center… executive director Connie Sherman said it switched from registered ministry to licensed day care “because we made a decision to be the best.” Ninety-five percent of the children at St. Mary’s live in poverty, and the parents are charged $5 a week. Sherman said the center made a commitment that the children “shouldn’t be cheated on quality because they are poor.”

There are also various facilities that are not becoming licensed, per se, but are choosing to follow many of the health and safety standards that formal licensing would compel — Better than nothing.

I’m not a fan of religious instruction occurring to children period, but I consider physical health and safety a top priority. I also believe that when it comes to the welfare of children, there should be NO exceptions to safety requirements and standards, religious rights or not. As indicated, the government is not likely to meddle with the ‘teachings’ of faith-based childcare facilities (whether they should or not is an entirely different conversation), so let’s regulate them and force licensing because those little kids need protection from the perceived ‘religious rights’ of the adults around them!

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  • Anonymous

    Texas had a nightmarish experience years ago when conservatives similarly refused to regulate “religious” juvenile detention centers. They finally did – after a series of deaths, including a teenage girl forced to drink lye as a punishment. The late great Molly Ivins wrote a good bit about that situation.

  • TiltedHorizon

    “The difference in health and safety standards between licensed centers
    and unlicensed faith-based daycares is immense — with the former abiding
    by 192 rules while the latter abides by only 21. The biggest
    difference, and perhaps the one that raises the most concern, is in the
    number of adults who must be present at daycares. For licensed centers,
    it’s one adult for every four infants and every five toddlers.”

    Seems faith based daycare is an accurate description. One would need faith to believe understaffed providers can actually provide adequate care.

  • Anonymous

    Who is demanding and defending “special rights” now?

  • Wow. What next? If faith-based schools have a field trip would it be ok to put the kids in the car trunk (so that laws don’t infringe on the religious liberties of that school)?  What other laws should NOT apply to them?

    At a minimum there should be a law that parents sign a form saying that they have been informed that their faith-based daycare is not following safety standards/regulation that apply to other daycare options. Such a law might be more likely to get through legislation since it is NOT telling churches what to do, just informing parents whether or not the churches are doing X, Y, Z.

  • I believe it is in Levitigenesisuronmy Chapter 6:12  “And go forth, and open day-care centers.  Need not worry about handicap accessibility, or care-giver to child ratio.  Is not God working beside you.  And if God is there, then how can that jug of drain cleaner really hurt little Susan?  And if she were to be harmed, then were it not that she was a witch and little Susan deserved what punishment God was wrought? ”

    I haven’t read the bible, but I’m sure it’s in there somewhere.

  • Anonymous

    I’m sorry but this is clear cut.  If a institution offers services for trade it should be required to meet the same health and safety rules as any other entity.

  • Sue Blue

    Damn, and here I was under the impression that all such care facilities had to be licensed – naive me!  My mom ran a small daycare back in the early 80s, and even to babysit four or five kids in her home she had to go through rigorous background checks, health tests, a home inspection by a state agent, and a limit was set on how many children could be there at any one time, the ages of the kids, and what adults could be present when the children were there.  And this was in Montana, which was a pretty conservative state at the time.  My mom is a devout evangelical christian, but she didn’t complain about the state doing this because she knew it was for the safety of the kids. She was strict about not introducing any religious aspect to the care of these kids because most of them were Catholic and their parents would have freaked.  Now I find out that if you claim you are a “faith-based” daycare, you can avoid any kind of oversight from the state!  What’s to stop kids from suffering abuse, neglect, molestation, and indoctrination with any kid of crazy shit?  Nothing!  Shit, remember the big huge hairy outrage over the supposed witchcraft and sexual assault going on at a daycare back in the 80s (I can’t remember the name of the woman and her son who were accused, but she died in prison)?  People were outraged that a secular daycare might have some satanic stuff going on or that kids might be getting touched, but if it’s a God-affiliated daycare, it’s okay?  What the hell is wrong here?  Any organization involved in the care of people –  disabled adults, the elderly, and children – absolutely must be subject to oversight and regulation.  Blindly trusting someone with the care of your loved ones just because they say they’re religious is like a woman trusting the guy who pulls up alongside her as she walks home at night and asks her if she’d like a ride.

  • Erp

    States vary.   Montana for instance exempts completely only parents providing for care for their own children or someone caring for up to 2 unrelated children in a residence.   Registration is required for 3-6 kids (including the caregiver’s own kids) in a residence.  Licensing is required for all else including religious based child care centers.


  • And this, despite many churches’ reputations for child abuse, including sexual abuse? WTF?

  • This is EXACTLY the sort of thing the atheist community should be fighting.

  • Anonymous

    Exactly, this is not fair trade, eventually they will run licensed daycare facilities out of business. 

  • Cheron22

    “If they did, I wouldn’t take their money.”
    The fact that they take gov money means they bloody well teach what the state wants them to. This guy has it ass backwards

  • Another shining example of religious priviledge.
    Child care should be regulated children are vulnerable enough without exposing them to indoctrination and propaganda from some close minded christian fundie.

  • More special rights for religious groups.   Funny how nobody’s standing around asking “won’t somebody please think of the children” like they would be if it were anybody but religious groups putting the kids at risk. 

  • PJB863

    I sincerely hope that this religious exemption does not apply to things like fire code, occupancy limits, etc.  

  • This is complete and utter horseshit. Those are daycare centres FIRST and religious whackjob indoctrination centres SECOND. Daycare status MUST be accorded as the primary function as it concerns the health and safety of small children.

    I don’t give a flying asspoke about the religious status. If you’re caring for small children you had damned well better be vetted and licensed.

  • Next up: Faith-based fire dept. Only put out the fires that aren’t consistent with God’s wrath.

  •  “What’s to stop kids from suffering abuse, neglect, molestation, and indoctrination with any kid of crazy shit?”
    The faith-based social services investigator, of course!

  • Ireland learned the hard way what happens when you blindly trust education to the church. I hope the USA won’t have to face the same unspeakable sorrow before things change. Schools here are still religious, but they have changed dramatically from years ago, and my concerns and input as parent are paramount. I have no experience of day care here, but I know from friends with smaller children that regulation is strict and there is at least a genuine effort to enforce high standards of care. 

  • Alex

    So, the fundies are the first in line screaming “would anyone please for once think of the children!” except when it actually comes to welfare of the children. Then, it’s religious rights.

  • Alex


    teenage girl forced to drink lye as a punishment


  • Nessuno

    “forced to drink lye”; could you please provide a source for that?  What was the name of the facility?

  • Anonymous

    Sure. It was at a place called Artesia Hall in 1972, but Ivins’ column mentioning the incident appeared in 1997. She went into more detail in her subsequent biography of George W. Bush. Here’s a link to the relevant passage:

  • PJB863

    I’m sure but it’s in there somewhere, you just slightly misquoted.

    It should read:

    “Worry not about handicapped….”

    “..were it not that she was wicked and sinful in mine eyes…..” (as most 3 year olds are)

    Sheesh, bloody wars have been fought over lesser misquotations!

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