Tuesday night my colleague Jim Bergamo put together a story about a toddler found wandering along a busy road outside his daycare center. It turns out he had escaped from a fenced area that had been cited as a problem by inspectors before.
Here in Texas parents are fortunate, they can check the safety violations for any licensed child care center easily from home. I did a quick check and found the Tutor Time Child Care Center on Dallas Drive had 12 safety violations in the last two years.
That’s not a lot. However what you learn by reading these reports is to look for the safety violations deemed to be high risk. I have more tips for you on what to look for below.
The Department of Family and Protective Services does a nice job breaking it out for you. It will even allow you to read the verbatim of the violations and what was noted.
How often are centers inspected?
How often are centers inspected?
In Texas, child care centers undergo at least one safety inspection a year. According to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services there are 274 case workers responsible for inspecting 17,660 day care centers. You can pull up those inspection reports here.
Every home based child care center must be inspected at least once every two years with at least one unannounced inspection every three years.
How to search
You can search records by the child care center name or choose a city and pull up all the licensed child care centers in your area. Remember anything listed as a family home is not licensed or registered and so does not have to be inspected.
What to look for
On top of looking for the violations deemed to be high or medium-high risk there are several other things to note.
Look at the number of inspections. The state can perform inspections more frequently depending on the number and seriousness of violations, so that’s something you should pay attention to when reading these reports on line.
You will notice the state will tell how many times in the last two years a child care center has been inspected. If you click on that number you can pull up the deficiencies from those reports which will also give you a good feeling as to why the center has been inspected more frequently.
You should also pay close attention to any corrective actions or adverse actions noted on the report at the top. These signal that the state has taken some type of action to correct a problem possibly as severe as closing down the center.
Drop by the daycare unannounced. Chris Van Deusen from the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services told me you should always be welcomed. A daycare should be active, noisy but not chaotic.
There are some really terrific resources for parents trying to make good decisions about childcare. Check out this guide called Don’t be in the Dark.
You can find a list of other state resources here.
To read more about the minimum standards all licensed child care centers must meet go here.
Lynn also e-mailed me about a terrific non-profit group in Austin which can help parents. It's called Family Connections. This organization also has a service to help parents locate a daycare. There can be a fee involved.
For those of you out of state
Different states have different agencies responsible for daycare inspections. Start by contacting the Department of Health and Human Services and then just ask who's responsible for inspections. Some states, like Minnesota, still do not have daycare inspections online. However, any daycare center should be able to provide you with their latest inspection if you ask. And by law, the state has to provide them for you as well.
Keep in mind certain cities and counties may have different rules. For example, in some places where I've lived the city was responsible for daycare centers but the county was responsible for the home based day cares.
If you have any questions feel free to send me an e-mail.