One Alabama daycare center is drawing attention to a law that exempts centers associated with church ministries from licensing and regulation. Kids Space Daycare in Foley, Alabama, was denied a business license by the city, but The Mobile Press-Register reports city officials ultimately have no grounds to shut the center down because of its church affiliation.
The city denied the center’s business license because of reports of problems at two previous facilities run by the same operator, Deborah Stokes. Stokes claims her daycare facility complies with the law and that children enrolled at the center are well cared for.
Foley police say Stokes was arrested in Mobile County on charges of child endangerment that occurred at a facility she operated in that county. She was ordered not to work in childcare for two years after pleading guilty to the charges. The Press-Register reports Foley police responded to more than a dozen calls at Stokes’ previous facility.
Kids Space Daycare was determined to be associated with Alpha and Omega Ministries. That affiliation exempts the facility from regulations that many other daycare centers are subject to and ties the hands of police and local authorities. The Minimum Standards for Daycare Centers and Nighttime Centers produced by the Alabama Department of Human Resources says that regulations “shall not apply to preschool programs which are an integral part of a local church ministry or a religious nonprofit elementary school.”
No such exemption exists in Georgia or other neighboring states. Parents in Alabama are increasingly concerned that safe, regulated daycare facilities will be more difficult to find as the number of unregulated centers increases. Unregulated centers are often more attractive to lower income families because of their lower fees.