House OKs bill on older teens’ authority in child care settings

DES MOINES — The Iowa House has approved a bill that would let 16 and 17 year olds temporarily be in charge of children under the age of five in child care centers. The original bill would have allowed older teens to manage infants and toddler rooms on their own if there were adults elsewhere in the building.

The bill now says 16 and 17 year could just briefly be in charge, for five minutes or less, during nap times or other breaks.  “Having been brought this piece of legislation by child care providers in our state and knowing that we have young people in our state that have a passion for learning more about early childhood development and education, I am happy to move this bill forward,” Representative Devon Wood, a Republican from New Market, said.

A 2022 Iowa law lets 16 and 17 year olds be in charge of care for school aged children in child care centers. Representative Austin Baeth, a Democrat from Des Moines, said he’s heard from child care center operators who don’t want those older teens to be charge of care for younger kids, even for short intervals. “They have concerns which may leave open a window of opportunity in which those periods of time based on the letter of this bill and what’s construed as brief may lead to situations where you have children watching children,” Baeth said.

The bill passed the House on a 55-36 vote, but has to win approval in the Senate before it would go to the governor.