By ROBERT PIERCE
• Daily Leader
There was a time in American history when it was common for one parent to work and the other to stay home with the kids, but within the last 40 years, that status is becoming a thing of the past.
Many households now have only one parent, and many others have two parents who work to provide for their family. Both of these trends have increased the need for day care providers for children.
Day care services seem to have become scarce across Southwest Kansas and the Oklahoma Panhandle, and Whitney Hampton, who started a day care service in her home in Liberal in April, said she sees parents needing child care all the time.
“I get about five contacts a week whether it be through Facebook or phone calls,” she said. “I could fill those other spots, but I like to keep my numbers a little lower than what I’m allowed to have.”
As a licensed provider, Hampton can serve up to 10 children in her home, but she only has six currently. She said this is the way she would like to keep it.
Becoming a licensed provider starts with a packet of regulations from the county health department, Hampton said.
“You have to submit an
application,” she said. “The state issues you a temporary permit, and the state inspector that’s located here comes in and inspects your home and makes sure you’re up to all the regulations. Then the state will issue your permanent license. You pay a fee to the county of $25 and the state $15, and that’s every year.”
Hampton explained some of the conditions that are required in order for a home to be used as a day care.
“The house itself has to be in good shape, no holes in walls,” she said. “Your knives have to be up higher. You have to have locks on all your doors that have chemicals. They have to be out of reach of children. Toys have to be cleaned and disinfected.”
Hampton said she is unsure as to why there are not more providers in the region.
“I don’t know if it’s because some people are afraid to open a day care,” she said. “Some people may feel their office job or their corporate job is more rewarding than being home with kids, but I beg to differ. It’s pretty rewarding whenever you have a kid running up to your front door so excited to come to your house that day. It’s pretty rewarding I think.”
She did say those who use her service have had very little in the way of complaints.
“I had a mom tell me the other day that her child is enjoying coming to my house so much better than the day care provider,” she said. “It just made me cry. It made me feel that their kid enjoys coming to my home and feels safer in my home.”
Hampton said the need for child care in the area is a big one.
“In most households, both parents are working,” she said. “If both parents are working, there’s quite a big need for it. I don’t know many stay at home moms. The number is quite low. Then you have single parents who may not have help from the other spouse. They have to work to provide for their family.”
Cost is a major factor families have when choosing a day care, and Hampton said this is a big reason she started her own service.
“I wanted to be at home anyway, but a major reason I wanted to open up a day care was going to be paying close to $700 for day care,” she said. “That was a whole paycheck. It just didn’t pay for me to do day care. I know some people who have more than two or three kids. Almost their whole month’s salary goes to day care, and I don’t understand that.”
There are two types of day cares – registered and licensed – and Hampton explained the difference.
“With registered, you just have to let the state know that you have a day care,” she said. “They don’t do inspections, and they don’t check up on you. With licensed, they can come into your home anytime.”
Hampton said a law was recently passed to eliminate registered day cares.
“If you’re registered, you’ll have to become licensed or be penalized by the state,” she said. “That might help with the availability of day cares. I don’t know if registered day cares are listed on Web sites or not. Maybe that can get their name out a little bit better.”
Hampton said age limitations also exist for day cares.
“You can have a total of 10 kids,” she said. “If you don’t have any children under the age of 18 months, you can have seven children age 18 months to kindergarten, which is age 5, or kindergarten to age 11, you can have three, which would be a total of 10. If you have one child under 18 months, you can have five children 18 months to kindergarten and four children over kindergarten age. Two kids under 18 months, you can have four children 18 months to kindergarten and three children over kindergarten age. With the larger amount of babies you have, the less amount of kids you can have, and your own kids count in those numbers. My two children count as part of my numbers.”
Hampton said she is only aware of one other day care provider in Liberal – First Baptist Church.
“It would be nice if I could open a day care center, but that’s a lot of money – the building and workers,” she said.
Hampton said there are a minimum amount of regulations when it comes to activities for children in a day care.
“The only thing they require is you’re supposed to take the children outside for an hour each day,” she said. “There’s no enforcement of creative play. You’re regulated on what you’re supposed to feed them for lunch or a snack and breakfast.”
Hampton said the state of Kansas also provides a food program for day cares which reimburses them a particular amount of money for each child, meal and snack. She said she does not take part in that program.
“It’s a lot of paperwork,” she said. “If you were in the right district, it pays off pretty good, but I’m not in the right school district.”
Hampton said for those wishing to start a day care, there is much in the way of resources available for doing so.
“It’s kind of frustrating when you first get started, but Child Care Connection in Garden City has a lot of good information,” she said. “They have a library where you can check out books, and they’ll bring them to you. The next month, they’ll come and pick them up and take them back.”