DES MOINES, Iowa — The immediate future of child care for thousands of Des Moines children was at stake at Monday evening’s city council meeting. In-home child care providers staved off a decision that could have dramatically altered the lives of thousands of families.
It was an emotional evening in City Hall as care giver after care giver approached the City Council. Jennifer Lemon is an in-home care provider and spoke about how much caring for children means to them.
“These kids are part of my family. I see them from the time they’re six weeks until they go off to kindergarten. I’m a glorified grandparent. I couldn’t imagine having to get rid of any one of these children,” Lemon said.
The City Council chose, for the time being, to not enforce an old city ordinance that would limit the amount of children in-home child care providers could have to six. That number falls outside state guidelines, which have different classifications providers can fall under. With each classification, a provider can open their home to more kids.
Under current city ordinances, 500 in-home child care providers are over booked. Meaning if it were enforced, 4,500 kids would be without child care, which is a move Shane Schulte, of United Way, says would hurt the economy.
“Simply by enforcing this restriction, we calculate about 1,800 families would have to quit their jobs to take care of their own children. Not only are they going to lose their jobs, but then the in-home providers are going to lose that additional income,” Schulte said.
His statement rings true for Lemon.
“If they kept with the six child limit, then my husband would no longer be able to work with me,” Lemon said.
The City Council said it partly boils down to a zoning issue.
“This will be mostly a conversation about what that right and appropriate number would be in our neighborhood setting in a single-family home,” said Des Moines city manager Scott Sanders.
The City Council’s decision will be made several months later after it reviews the issue with consultants and hold open meetings with the public.
Until then, in-home child care providers will operate under state guidelines, which is just the way they want it.
“Right now, the state is who regulates us. The state is who comes into our homes and makes sure we’re following all of these regulations already. We would just like for them to align with the state, the people who check us,” Lemon said.
In other business at the meeting, food truck vendors can now operate in city parks after a city code was amended.
Also, a project turning the parking lot east of City Hall into a parking ramp and retail space moves to the next phase. A hearing to sell the property is set for April 11.