National

Helpful friend, or illegal sitter?

IRVING TOWNSHIP, Mich. —Each day before the school bus comes to pick up the neighborhood's children, Lisa Snyder did a favor for three of her fellow moms, welcoming their children into her home for about an hour before they left for school.

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.

"I was freaked out. I was blown away," she said.

Snyder's predicament has led to a debate in Michigan about whether a law that says no one may care for unrelated children in their home for more than four weeks each calendar year unless they are licensed day care providers needs to be changed. It also has irked parents who say they depend on such friendly offers to help them balance work and family.

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.

Snyder learned that the agency was responding to a neighbor's complaint.

Granholm spokeswoman Liz Boyd said the agency was following standard procedure in its response. "But we feel this (law) really gets in the way of common sense," Boyd said.

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