KUSI Special Report: What you need to know when choosing a day care

With the economy still sluggish, many families are finding that both parents have to contribute to the family income. Meaning more families need to find adequate day care for their children. Many families are turning away from the large commercial child care facilities and turning to in-home day care, which is typically more conveniently located and better priced.

Earlier this year, KUSI covered the story of Vivian Matchett, an Escondido resident who ran a small day care out of her home. She is being investigated by the state after her ex-husband, a convicted child molester, was reportedly spotted around the property. Matchett says her husband wasn't there when the day care was open, but state investigators have temporarily suspended her license. She is appealing the order, but the day care remains closed.

This matter raises a lot of questions, especially considering there are more than four-thousand private homes in San Diego County that are licensed for child day care.

In this special report, KUSI's Sasha Foo looks at what parents need to know when choosing a day care.

For ten hours a day, San Diego resident Meg Brownstead's house is turned into a day care.
By law, even a small family child care like Meg's has to meet certain requirements to be licensed by the state.

That's where inspectors like Kimberly Hall come in. Hall is an inspector for the State Department of Social Services and her job is to ensure that requirements for the safety, health and welfare of these children are being met.

For example, a facility like Meg's is licensed for a maximum of eight kids and she could be cited if she is caught caring for more children.

Inspectors also have a checklist for the home itself.  Are there functional fire extinguishers and smoke detectors? Are there safety latches for drawers and doors and are chemicals and household cleaners locked up? Any violations must be corrected immediately, within 24 hours.

Inspectors like Kimberly also go through the providers' files looking for records that show each child has been immunized.  And for parents who refuse to get their children shots, they must have signed a special form.

Before a license can be issued, providers like Meg also have to undergo CPR and basic health training, at least 15 hours per year.

There are also requirements for hygiene and safe toys, even rules on keeping firearms in the home. Plus, emergency plans that include a layout of the home must be posted. And care providers are required to practice disaster drills with the kids at least twice a year.

Fingerprints and criminal background checks also must be completed for everyone who lives in the house.

Inspectors say not everyone who cares for children knows a license is required. That's what happened to Claudia Henson, who just obtained her day care license a few weeks ago saying  it took some time to qualify but the process benefits everyone.

Here are a few recommendations when looking for a day care: trust your gut, ask lots of questions and don't be afraid to do your own inspection. You can also ask which people in the home have undergone background checks.

Remember parents have the right to ask the state to see the public files on any licensed facility and they can also ask the provider to see their facility inspection reports.

For more information on family child care regulations, call the State Department of Social Services at (619) 767-2200 or (619) 767- 2248.

Categories: Special Reports