It’s been a bad week for childcare facilities. On Friday, a licensed Pittsburg daycare, R&B Childcare Services, was shut down and the owner arrested after police raided the facility and found $6,000 worth of crack cocaine, several bags of sex toys and $4,000 cash on the premises, where 10 to 15 little kids were enrolled.
And in a more disturbing and violent case, Jessica Tata, the owner of a Houston daycare has fled the country after a warrant was issued for her arrest over the daycare fire that killed four small children and injured several others. From the information available, Tata allegedly left a house of toddlers alone while she went to the supermarket.
While she was gone, a fire seems to have started from a pot left heating on the stove.
Both stories are upsetting, the second one tragic. And it leaves some parents with the questions: Is daycare safe – and how do you know?
Here are a few things we can glean from these cases:
1.The bare minimum: If daycares are in-home, they have to be licensed (although it appears in that both were in these cases, so clearly licensure doesn’t equal safety)
2.Random visitors are a bad sign: In the Pittsburg case, news reports say that parents noticed multiple people not employed by the daycare going in and out of the facility during the day. This is a huge red flag for me. You may trust the teachers, but what about other people who come and go.
If I were interviewing a facility (especially one in-home) I would ask the question: Does anyone visit during the day (aunts, uncles, friends, etc) and why?
3. Ratio: A daycare with a decent ratio of teachers to toddlers (1:3) isn’t necessarily safe, but one with a low ratio is a bad bet. In the Jessica Tata case, she seems to have been the only care provider with seven toddlers. That would be dangerous even if she hadn’t left the house, but the fact that she was alone and had no back up teachers was a tragic mistake.
4. Philosophy and structure: When you interview the daycare director and teachers, ask what their approach to child care and child development are. You want to feel on board with their methods, but it’s also a good sign if they have a philosophy to begin with and are thoughtful enough to answer this question well.
5. Volunteer or do spot checks: After you’ve thoroughly interviewed the staff, especially the director, it helps to pop in at random times to see how things are managed and what the kids are doing when it’s not drop off and pick up time. In some cases you could ask to volunteer for part of the day to see the place from the inside.
Can you add any advice to this list? How do you know a good solid daycare when you see one?