Who's watching your children while you're at work? Can you trust them? Placing your child in day care is stressful enough but is the state doing enough to protect them from injuries and death due to day care negligence?
An analysis of records compiled by the state of Georgia and analyzed by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (and published in the October 2, 2011 Sunday print edition)* show approximately 500 "lapses" in care of children at state day care programs. In the last five years:
8 children died,
239 children were injured,
4 children had fractured skulls,
7 children had fingers amputated or severed,
34 children suffered burns and 50 children were able to leave day care on their own and
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution created a database of the most significant incidents over a five year period at the state's child care centers. Those included small in-home day care "microbusinesses" to larger day care centers with multiple employees. The
AJC also requested data from other nearby states to compare how Georgia treated child care incidents. Georgia doesn't fare very well against North Carolina, Kentucky, Louisana, and South Carolina. Those states took more aggressive action against day care providers and revoked more licenses than Georgia. In 2009, Georgia was ranked 49th worst out of 50 states for child care oversight, according to the
National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies. In 2011, Georgia ranked 36.
The state agency in charge of child care programs, the Department of Early Care and Learning, apparently
revokes licenses at a lower rate than neighboring states; relies heavily on
fines instead of other sanctions (revocation of licenses); and when it actually does revoke licenses of child care providers, the state tends to target small in-home providers rather than larger centers. However, 85 percent of all major penalties ("adverse sanctions") were levied against larger child care centers that had 19 or more children. And 90 percent of all incidents resulted in merely fines rather than other action.
In one case, a seven year old boy left his Kennesaw day care center and wandered 2.5 miles trying to find his home, even crossing the incredibly busy and dangerous Cobb Parkway. Thankfully, the wandering boy was reported by a concerned motorist and was returned to his mother uninjured. The day care center while apologetic, was only sanctioned a fine of $299.
Finger injuries also are rampant. TheAJC found 25+ incidents of children's fingers being slammed in doors, 7 incidents resulting in severing or amputation. Children and doors are a foreseeable combination for injuries and there are plenty of safety devices for doors, so this is a surprising, unnecessary and unfortunate statistic.
All of this is disturbing news for parents who rely on day care providers. Parents: be vigilant. Check up wtih the state on your day care provider to see if the facility or provider has had any incidents. Drop in unexpectedly to check on your baby or child, don't be shy about discussing concerns, don't shrink from reporting incidents or injuries you feel just aren't normal. Listen to your parent intuition.
The state has already proved that it's light on meaningful punishment for providers who let incidents happen on their watch. If parents are lax, then child care providers may be lax also. Day care providers are expected to adhere to a standard of care for your child and may be responsible for their negligence if your child is injured or dies in their care. If the worst happens, there may be legal recourse.
Please contact me if you have any questions or concerns regarding any incidents involving your child in day care.
*Currently, this AJC article seems to be unavailable online.
UPDATE: the above article is only available through the AJC's "stacks" subscription which requires a small fee to access the entire article. If you are interested in the complete article, please contact our office and we'll be glad to send you a copy (scanned PDF or snail mail) at no charge.