MILWAUKEE (CN) – A day-care operator says Wisconsin unconstitutionally and “permanently barred [her] from holding a childcare license with no right to seek rehabilitation or review” because 20 years ago she failed to report Christmas income she earned while receiving food stamps. During the nation’s worst unemployment crisis in a generation, Alma Brown says the state deprived her “both of her business and her ability to ever work as a teacher for a licensed daycare facility” because of the 20-year old food stamp violation, which she used to feed her four children.
Brown sued the Department of Children and Families and the Wisconsin Department of Administration Division of Hearings and Appeals in Milwaukee County Court.
Brown acknowledges that in the late 1980s she failed to report money she earned at a department store during the Christmas season, while she was receiving food stamps.
Brown is another casualty in a long line of Wisconsin caregivers who’ve had their licenses revoked since 2009, when the state enacted Wisconsin Act 76, which revised Wis. Stat 48.865.
Previously, the law denied child-care licenses to people who were convicted of serious, violent crimes and crimes against children. The revision “added a lengthy list of additional offenses for which an individual’s license could be permanently revoked.”
Brown and others in her situation say the background checks required by the new law don’t differentiate between the severity of crimes or how they relate to the care of children. Brown says her food stamp conviction does not reflect on her ability to operate a high-quality daycare center and, furthermore, she has always been honest about the conviction.
She spent the two envelopes of food stamps on her four children 20 years ago, has never been convicted of any other crime, and ran her child-care business successfully until the state changed the law and took her license away, Brown says.
The state says she is guilty of “an offense involving fraudulent activity,” but Brown says she has been put into a category that is “vague and ambiguous.” She says that barring her from employment “because of a conviction for conduct from 20 years ago violates both equal protection and due process.”
She wants her license reinstated. She is represented by Jill Kastner of Legal Action of Wisconsin.