IOWA (WHO) – Parents in Iowa know all too well the realities of the current childcare shortage. The governor’s office estimates 350,000 more workers are needed in our state.
One mother started a petition to make it legal for 15-year-olds to work in childcare. Now, another mother thinks it’s ridiculous that a minor drug offense carries the same punishment as physical child abuse in the industry.
Darcee Outland broke the law. She got a marijuana conviction that forced her out of childcare for five years, because of another law that she calls “unfair.”
“I felt like I was literally pushed off of my path,” Outland said.
The mom of one had a job of taking care of more children than just her own as a childcare worker at a center, but that changed when authorities found drug paraphernalia and a small amount of marijuana in her car.
“I was like what do I do now? Like, that was me,” Outland said. “I loved my job, I loved getting up, I loved going in there, I loved helping these little people figure out what they’re doing. And that was the worst part was losing myself.”
Outland was working in a field that desperately needs people right now. However, a code in Chapter 109 from the Department of Human Services prohibits anyone from working in childcare for five years if they have a conviction of a controlled substance or founded child abuse that was determined to be physical abuse.
It’s a comparison some parents don’t think is right.
“Anything that makes it more difficult to let great people teach and take care of children, it seems to me to be problematic and unfair,” Ariel Rubin, a father in Des Moines, said.
While other parents believe people with past offenses like those shouldn’t work in childcare at all.
Outland knows this impacts more people than her, and she plans to re-apply to be a childcare worker again when her five years expire in May of 2022. She hopes to fill the gap so many families are feeling.
“Really we do need a lot more great childcare,” Rubin said, “and I’m sure there’s a lot of great people out there and if they’re being judged by the worst thing that they’ve ever done, who amongst us hasn’t hasn’t done something they regret and I think to be punished like that unfairly seems pretty unfair to me.”
A spokesperson from the governor’s office said in a statement: “The governor is actively exploring the idea of expanding the childcare workforce to 15-year-olds and it’s part of ongoing discussion with her childcare task force. We are looking at anything and everything to expand access to affordable childcare in the state of Iowa.”
However, the spokesperson did not comment on the current law impacting people like Outland.