Where We are and Where We’re Going
With a quick scan through the local and national news broadcasts, it is immediately evident that our world is a very different place than it was at this same time last year. While new breakthroughs regarding treatments and a possible vaccine feel as though they could be on the horizon, It has become abundantly clear that the COVID-19 virus is not going away anytime soon. This realization has us looking to the future, both immediate and distant, in an attempt to make the best decisions to keep us all safe and healthy, including the very smallest of us.
What about the Kids?
With so much uncertainty surrounding the way in which schools will operate in this coming school year, many parents are finding themselves faced with questions, as well as a potentially difficult situation. If schools maintain the distance-learning model that they adopted at the end of last year, or adopt a hybrid model (with children learning both in-person within the school building and at home) parents are left wondering where their children will spend the days, while they are at work. This has many looking into alternative solutions, such as in-home daycares. Thus, with an increased need, it seems only logical that more of these businesses will be established. While, to many, this may seem like an obvious and advantages solution, for others, the prospect of an increased number of in-home daycares popping up in neighborhoods across the country feels incredibly problematic. In many instances, the Homeowners Associations of said communities fall into the latter category.
So, what are the Rules, Exactly?
Rules surrounding the opening and operation of in-home childcare vary greatly from state to state and even county to county, making it somewhat difficult to know fully what is and is not allowed. What makes things even more confusing is that, often, the state and county will allow an in-home daycare to be established, even licenced, yet the HOA that governs that property strictly prohibits it. This creates a legal gray-area that can place homeowners/providers at odds with their association in that they are following the laws of the county and the state, but breaking the rules of the association.
Solution, or just Another Problem?
So why is it that an HOA would seek to restrict or ban in-home daycares within their communities? Kids are cute, they are our future, etcetera, etcetera. Why would anyone want to regulate these precious, little cherubs? Well, like many arguments that erupt between HOAs and their residents, the crux exists in the potential problems that can be presented to the OTHER residents of the community. The traffic that can be caused by the daily drop-off and pick-up routines, as well as parents finding parking nearby can cause distress to the individuals in the surrounding homes. The potential noise caused by a group of children can be aggravating to those who spend their days at home, especially now that so many individuals have transitioned to working from home amidst the pandemic. There is also the argument that parks, pools and openspaces that may be utilized by daycare providers for their charges were intended to be used by only the residents of the community. The use of these amenities by an increased number of children will cause more than the normal amount of “wear and tear,” causing the need for repair, leaving the residents to foot the bill.
A Light in the Dark
But it cannot be all doom and gloom, can it? While the negative side-effects of these businesses are very real possibilities, it is also true that in-home childcare can generate many positive outcomes, while providing a solution to a very real need within the community. When the pandemic first came to the US, forcing schools to close, daycare facilities found themselves inundated with parents attempting to find a safe place for their children. Without the availability of reliable, and responsible care, many families would be forced to make some very difficult decisions; decisions that can have lasting and far-reaching effects. In the United States, we have created, and become dependent on a system in which kids go to school and adults go to work at (mostly) corresponding times. However, when the former does not happen, the latter is put into jeopardy. As we have witnessed first-hand, when people cannot work, the economy suffers. In order for an economic recovery to begin, parents will need to be able to work, meaning that there will need to be suitable childcare available to all families that require it.
With the members of its community able to work, those individuals are far more likely to find themselves in a financially stable situation. This can decrease the number of residents losing their homes to foreclosure, something that the HOA, and the community as a whole, have a vested interest in, given that an increased number of foreclosed properties within a community can very quickly lower the values of the surrounding homes.
In addition to the financial benefits, there is a slightly more emotional boon that can be derived from allowing in-home daycares to operate. When neighbors come together to provide aid for one another, a sense of togetherness and community is created and connections are strengthened. Bonds are formed between people who had formerly only been connected by proximity. Children are left in the care of neighbors that they know and are comfortable with and lasting relationships are created between both the children and adults taking part in this system. While this outcome is not able to be measured on a chart or graph it is, cerataily, no less important.
The truth is that COVID-19 and the uncertainty of what our “new normal” will look like will force all of us to reevaluate the current systems that we have in place and force us to look toward new solutions to problems that we had never before been asked to face. HOAs and the community members that they represent will need to come together to assess all of the positives and negatives surrounding this very immediate dilemma, take a close look at their policies, governing documents, as well as the regulations set forth by their state and county to make a decision as to what will be best for their specific community and residents.