"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 thewarning her that if she continued, she'd be violating a law aimed at the operators of unlicensed .
"I was freaked out. I was blown away," she said. "I got on the phone immediately, called my husband, then I called all the girls" — that is, the mothers whose kids she watches — "every one of them."
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. "This could be as simple as providing a cup of sugar, monitoring their house while they're on vacation or making sure their children are safe while they wait for the school bus."
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.
"We want to protect kids, but the law needs to be reasonable," she said. "When the governor learned of this, she acted quickly and called the director personally to ask him to intervene."
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