daycareWhat if you had to scan your fingertips every time you dropped off or picked up your child from daycare? That's what parents will be doing in Mississippi when a new program begins next year. With Mississippi eChildcare, parents who get federal childcare vouchers will have to scan their fingers every time they bring their kids to daycare.

When I first heard about the program, I thought it was a security measure -- kind of extreme, but just a way to make sure the wrong adult doesn't leave with your kid. But nope! Its real purpose is to help the state keep track of attendance. In other words, they want to find out how much of that voucher money is being wasted on families who hardly use them. The state claims it could save up to $18 million by reducing false attendance claims by childcare providers. Yay! All they have to do is treat low-income parents like criminals.

I get why the state would want to save money. No point in wasting money on childcare that isn't actually getting used. But this just seems so punitive. It's just another example of how it's always assumed that those people on government assistance are dishonest and always trying to scam the system. So great, because Mississippi doesn't trust you, you'll have to get fingerprinted every time you drop off and pick up your kids -- like you're already doing something wrong!

Childcare centers say they'll get screwed with this new program, too. They're worried that they won't get reimbursed for time when kids are actually at the center. Fair enough? But the centers say it costs the same for them to run those centers whether or not all of the kids participate all the time.

The tricky thing about childcare is that for too many families, their need for it is unpredictable. If you're living on the edge of poverty, you may be employed one week, unemployed the next. Your hours could get cut with no warning. And if you're trying to claw your way to independence, having reliable childcare is essential. Those centers need to be there, ready for you.

Hell, this isn't even a scenario for lower-income families. I think many middle-income families aren't feeling 100 percent secure in their employment, either. The idea of your childcare disappearing on you at the last minute strikes terror in the hearts of any working parent. Anyway, the program is still in the pilot stages, so it's not a done deal. I hope they find a better way to manage their voucher system.

Do you think it makes sense to fingerprint parents who receive federal childcare vouchers?

 

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