DC Government Threatens Church-Based 'Play-Date' Group for Toddlers

P. Gardner Goldsmith | November 15, 2018
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For 35 years, generations of parents in the Washington, D.C. area have been dropping off their toddlers for play-dates at a local gathering spot. The parents like it, and the little ones enjoy it…so, is it any surprise that the government wants to shut it down?

Like a fungus, the spores of government nanny-statism are encroaching into every facet of the people's lives, and the D.C. City Council is certainly an example of this menacing phenomenon. As Karin Lips, the mom of a baby she hopes will be able to join the group, writes in an op-ed for the Washington Post:

On Sept. 7, the Office of the State Superintendent of Education investigators inspected a playgroup of toddlers to assess whether the cooperative was an illegal daycare. The investigators issued Capitol Hill Cooperative Play School parents a ‘statement of deficiencies,’ alleging that the Capitol Hill Cooperative Play School was violating the regulations that apply to a ‘child development facility.’

Two points about this bureaucratic attack come to mind, the least important of which ought to be noted first.

The government claim that this is a “child development facility” is just silly. As Lips notes:

The Capitol Hill Cooperative Play School has operated as a voluntary cooperative since the 1970s. Each week, participating 2-year-olds gather in a room at the Lutheran Church of the Reformation for three hours, one to three days each week. The playgroup has no staff. Parents rotate watching the kids. Toddlers make new friends. Parents get flexible child care and build friendships through the partnership. The church gets new people in the door.

She goes on to explain:

The Capitol Hill Cooperative Play School parents have developed some simple rules over the years. Supervising parents should not be distracted by their work or phones during the playgroup. Parents are required to submit emergency contact information and medical treatment forms for each child. Families must report to the group when their toddler has a contagious illness. The group has a plan for what to do in the event of an emergency.

Yet it is this set of simple rules that the city claims puts it into the target-hairs of bureaucratic interference and mandates, not to mention paying to be licensed. Parents, welcome to gangster-like tactics. You wanna operate? You better do it “our way”, and pay up.

As Lips observes, the strange irony is that the D.C. bureaucracy using the parental arrangements as a trigger for its meddling will actually create a disincentive for parents to be careful. Why do so, if that places the entire system in jeopardy, invites bureaucratic control, and raises expenses?

Ironically, if the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) has its way and is allowed to regulate this playgroup out of existence, it would be creating a disincentive for parents to self-regulate, as a playgroup with no safety rules would presumably be on stronger legal standing.

And that’s the least of the issues, strangely enough. What’s even more troubling is the political assumption that the government should have any hand in “regulating” (ie threatening people if they don’t do it the government’s way) what parents do with their kids, or have any ethical right to interfere in what social groups do to offer opportunities for parents to drop off kids, or to teach kids, or feed kids, or anything voluntarily arranged among willing participants.

Lis Kidder, a parent whose child is in the play group, says it well:

‘I know OSSE’s intentions are good, but it’s not their job to tell me whether I can drop my child off with some friends for a few hours to play… Allowing OSSE to invade these private social gatherings is an erosion of parental rights without justification.’

If two parents are incapable of caring enough for their kids that they can’t join with other parents to create a safe and fun play environment for them, what’s next? Government-inspected birthday parties? Picnics? Hikes? Chats on park benches? Get a license, troglodytes!

This is approaching Burgermeister Meisterburger level stupidity. No more toys! Or, as Iggy and the Stooges said, “No Fun.

If parents don’t care enough for their own kids to create safe play environments for them, how are people who are not related to the toddlers -- people who don’t even know them – somehow going to do better? If the government truly represents the people and “cares,” then why can’t the people be free to do this themselves?

Ahh, logic. Not the purview of the state. Nor is the ethical treatment of one’s neighbors a familiar theme for government. In fact, it’s just the opposite. This kind of strong-arm activity is familiar to those who observe the way licensing and regulation are used by politically-connected interests to block less expensive competition from entering the market.

And this is an example of it.

At least it helps teach children of all ages a lesson.

Watch out for the state.

No matter the kind of safe environment one tries to create for one’s offspring, the agents of the state will attempt to invade it.

It is the most prolific form of human predation in the history of man.

On every level. Even the level of pushing around parents who just want to let their kids play together.

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