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Special Report--

Who's Watching Your Kids?

November 6, 2003

Albany-  Choosing a child care facility may be one of the most important decisions you make for your kids. They could spend an average of nine hours a day there. 

But some people spend more time shopping for their cars than they spend looking for a quality day care.

Mark Bremen begins each day by dropping off five-month-old Brenna at Miss Jan's day care. Brenna's usually happy to be here. And she ought to be, after the time and effort her parents put in to finding this place.

In fact, Mark and Ellen began their search before Brenna even arrived. Mark sot:  "I made it a commitment for everything regarding our child, whether it be a crib, stroller, where she goes to day care."

That's not the case with all families. And with so many centers to choose from, the decision of where to keep your tiny tot may be a bumpy ride.

"We always anticipated that we would put our potential child in daycare, but when the reality of that came to be, it was very, very difficult," Ellen  said.

For Brenna, her parents visited several day cares with a long list of questions, like:

 - Are infants kept separately from toddlers?

 - What kind of training do the teachers have?

 - What is the emergency evacuation plan?

"I mean we asked one person about an evacuation plan and they said 'Oh, that's a good idea.' So that sort of worried us," said Ellen.

That's why getting inside these rooms is so important.  Everything the state  finds in inspections is public record and completely accessible by you. Day cares are inspected each year and any time a complaint is filed. The findings, and violations, are all here.

In the last year in Dougherty County, inspectors have cited some centers for providers not having current CPR training, not having a feeding plan for infants or not having supervision for all children all the time.  The Reports are detailed with information about the playground to the toys on the floor.

Nat Linda sot (26:52-tape 3): "The first thing she looks for when she enters the room is the number of teachers and students," says Linda Baxter of Byne Child Development Center. "In this particular room there are 15 children and there are two teachers. So that ratio is correct."

Then there are the rest rooms.  "They check the sink levels to make sure there are stools for the children," said Baxter. So it's easy for them to wash away the germs.

But the water can't get too warm. "You have to be able to do this with hot water." Televisions must be mounted, fire escape plans must be posted.  "They hold on to that rope and go out the door," Baxter said.

And cabinets must be closed-tight. "Anything that's down low that's within a child level has to have a child restraint lock on it."

You know the state's trying to look out for your children because they check every inch of these centers. They even take a ruler and measure the fall zone. That's the amount of sod that has to be under a slide and there has to be at least 8 inches.

In the infant's room,  "They have to record all of their feedings, all of their diaper changes, all of their medications."

So that each parent gets a daily report. "They also look to make sure a baby is moved into different areas." Giving babies the chance to move around.

But with all these rules to be broken, it may be hard to know which ones should worry you. "I would not be real concerned unless there were major issues there that there were not answers for."

So there's no doubt, searching for childcare is a serious undertaking. The information's out there. It's up to you to get it. Mark and Ellen are glad they gave it the effort, though they had moments where giving up seemed easier.  "I thought if that's what we have to choose from, I can't do it," said Ellen.

But they did. The atmospherehere is what they wanted, for Brenna's sake. Even though it's still hard to leave her. "But I do feel she is in very good hands, and I feel she is being loved." 

Loved by people they trust, until the time comes to take her home.

You can visit the Office of Regulatory Services website doesn't have a report posted, call the department's Albany office at 430-4302.

posted at 5:30PM by dave.miller@walb.com