All parents who pay for day care are hoping their children are in safe and secure facilities. A new report from the federal government should remind all parents they need to do their own homework to make sure their providers are meeting state safety requirements.
The United States Department of Health and Human Services performed surprise inspections on 20 home child care providers. They worked with the state inspectors and visited facilities that have been licensed by the state of Michigan. Federal inspectors went along with state agents as they made their regularly schedules inspections in several cities: Lansing, Portage, Muskegon, Twin Lakes, Niles, Kalamazoo, Oak Park, Ortonville, Marysville, Pontiac, Southfield, Waterford, Farmington Hills, and Sterling Heights.
They found violations of some kind in all 20 of the facilities they visited. They did not identify the facilities. The found violations such as...
1) A fire exit blocked with laundry chemicals and lacking a hand rail for the steps.
2) An electrical outlet protruding from the wall and covered with duct tape.
3) Standing food and water left in the sink and pet food on the counter where meals are prepared for children.
"Do these things occur? Absolutely!" said Denise Smith, Vice-President of Early Learning at Excellent Schools Detroit. "Can I say that it's 100% representative? I can't. It's only 20 programs. In Wayne County alone we have 1,200."
Excellent Schools Detroit is a coalition looking to improve education in Metro-Detroit by the year 2020. The group's focus is on excellence in education from the cradle to career. Smith says the group is pushing for higher standards in all child care facilities, and says if this report pushes parents to demand those
improvements, that would be a very positive impact.
Numerous Violations Found
The federal report focused on violations found in 20 Michigan facilities. The inspections found a long list of problems that included: 34 fire safety issues,
75 violations dealing with physical and environmental safety, and 24 dealing with criminal record and protective services checks.
"You're not even supposed to open without having proper background checks," said Denise Smith, Vice-President of Early Learning at Excellent Schools Detroit.
However, she admits the state needs more resources to make sure providers are in compliance with the basic safety requirements. She says each caseworkers has about 400 programs to manage. "It's almost impossible for them to consistently regulate and monitor the activities at these kind of programs," Smith told Ruth to the Rescue.
The federal report agreed with Smith's observations. It concluded the state needs to reduce the number of caseloads. State officials agree with that goal,
but say it would be difficult to do make that a reality without additional resources and funding.
What Should Parents Do
In the meantime, what should parents do? Smith hopes the report is a wake up call for parents to do more in-depth research on the day care providers they choose and demand to see proof that safety requirements are being met. However, she does realize it's a stressful balancing act for parents who are trying
to find the highest quality of care, but can be limited by the price they are able to pay.
"Without a parent being able to make the choice of a quality environment that they can afford, you're going to have programs like this that are able to operate," said Denise Smith, Vice-President of Early Learning at Excellent Schools Detroit.
She also adds that parents should not be alone in the search for better quality care, "I think together it needs to be a partnership with parents, community,
and those providers of early care.