Who's watching the people watching your kids?
In Part One of Day Care Dangers, we showed you what the state does to regulate and license day cares.
In Part Two, we'll look at what's happening inside some Bryan/College Station centers, and what you as a parent should know to protect your child.
"All I kept thinking was what could have happened, what might have happened?"
It's what Carrie Harrison asked when her 1½ year old son, Braylen, got out of his day care classroom and was found five feet from a busy road.
"They basically lost my son for five minutes and had no idea where he was or what he was doing," Harrison said.
After filing a complaint with the state, Harrison started doing a little digging as she looked for a new day care for Braylen.
"I got online and searched Texas day cares," Harrison recalled.
She found a resource that serves as a report card for all day cares in Texas. The website is txchildcaresearch.org. There, you can find complaints filed against daycares and their inspection history.
Jacqueline Barnett is a state licensing inspector. "They can get an idea of any investigations, any complaints, what they've been cited for, their deficiencies," she said So News Three went through the inspections for Bryan/College Station day cares.
Here are some of the more severe violations we found from the past two years:
At Aggieland Learning and Fit for Kids, an employee put a 3-year-old in a closet as a form of discipline. The caregiver was fired the same day.
Two children were touching inappropriately during naptime at Medallion School Partnerships at Henderson Elementary. All the kids there now sleep further apart and can't share blankets.
In 2006, an employee at Kiddie Castle Childrens Center I slapped at least one child in the face. That person was fired.
Here's another one that caught our attention: the director at After the Rain Day Care in Bryan was supposed to be watching 23 kids. Instead, she was sleeping and had to be woken up by an inspector.
Three- and four-year-olds were found playing in the parking lot at All Gods Children Day Care in Bryan.
At St. Joseph Eagles Nest Nursery, a two-year-old received a large injury to his back and the staff couldn't explain it, while at St. Joseph Eagles Nest on Preston, two children were taken to the doctor after an unsecured shelf fell on them due to lack of supervision.
"It's our job to ensure their safety," Barnett said.
When a day care is cited, the state gives them time to fix the problem. Inspectors typically work with the facility to come into compliance, but the state also has the power to shut a daycare down.
"It's also up to the parents to do some research in deciding where they're going to put their children," reminds Barnett. "Definitely look at centers, get a feel, trust your instinct."
It's a message echoed by Carrie Harrison.
"Research the facility, talk to people in the community or moms that have taken their children somewhere and ask questions, ask a lot of questions."
Bottom line: it's up to you. The state can make sure facilities are meeting the minimum standards, but it's up to parents to do the research.
The good news is the state says we are very fortunate to have good day cares in Bryan/College Station. While some just meet the minimum standards, others go above and beyond.
Again, the website is txchildcaresearch.org. Everything there is public record, and it doesn't cost you a thing.
Here are some helpful tips for choosing the best location to care for your child:
Day Care Questions Parents Should Ask
-Is the facility licensed or registered with the state?
-Will the provider give references?
-Does the facility or any of its personnel have a criminal record?
-Is the provider trained in early childhood education or first aid?
-What activities will the child be doing all day?
-Are parents welcome to visit during the day?
5 Steps to Child Care Solutions
1. Search online for day care providers, 24-hour residential facilities, and adoption agencies and foster care at txchildcaresearch.org.
2. Enter your requirements. The search will return a list of providers who report services meeting your specifications, including their locations and phone numbers.
3. Select specific providers you'd like to research. www.txchildcaresearch.org reveals each provider's licensing history and compliance with minimum health and safety standards.
4. Call 1-866-TX-CHILD toll-free or use txchildcaresearch.org to locate the child care resource and referral agency nearest you. These local resource and referral agencies can provide additional information on the programs, costs, availability, and accessibility of the individual providers.
5. Visit the day care or residential facilities you are considering. Interview the caregivers and watch the interaction between the staff and the children. Talk to parents whose children attend. Make sure the provider's care meets your standards. Once your child is in care, stay involved and keep asking questions.