Daycare dangers: See if your child’s daycare is breaking the rules

On Your Side
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Digging for details about your child's daycare is getting a bit easier.

Throughout the past year, WREG has shown you examples of dangerous daycares that break rules and put children's health and safety at risk.

Daycare Dangers

The On Your Side Investigators filed open records requests and sifted through thousands of pages to get that information, but now some of the very same details are at your fingertips.

Nikki Garces said, "Oh my gosh, it was stressful, you're looking, you're worried," as she explained what it was like searching for child care for her two kids.

It's a feeling most parents can relate to.

"It was really difficult because there wasn't a lot of information out there," said Kathy Dudley as we spoke outside her child's center.

That's all changing.

The Tennessee Department of Human Services has now added daycare violation history to its website.

"I think it's good, parents need to know, you know, what's going on with the center," said Dudley as WREG showed her the link on the site.

DHS made the change one year after WREG aired the first in a series of investigations into area daycare centers.

Parents complained about problem daycares and information not being easy to access.

Parents Take Action After WREG Report

The On Your Side Investigators also questioned why, unlike many other states, Tennessee posted basic details about daycares, but no violation history.

During a May 2014 interview, DHS' Pat Wade told WREG, "It is our intent to have the violations online by July 1st."

Sure enough, that happened.

Much of the same information that took WREG months to get is now available online.

Users simply go to the DHS homepage, click on 'Find Child Care', then search by county.

Use this link to search for daycares across the state.

You then pull up daycares by zip code. Once you click on a particular zip code, a list of daycare centers comes up and on the far right is a column titled 'Compliance History'.

Simply click on the 'Compliance History' link for a child care center and you'll see if it's had any violations in the past year and what those are.

If there is a violation, you'll see the date it happened, the date it was corrected along with a brief description.

For example, WREG found one violation that read, "Observation: The agency neglected to report an incident of improper discipline as is required. 1240-04-03-.10 HEALTH AND SAFETY."

Health and safety is the type of violation, while the observation is a synopsis of what the program evaluator witnessed.

Kay VonBoeckman is the owner and director of Bartlett Child Care Center.  She talked with WREG about how parents could best use the information.

She said, "I think in their minds they can decide if this is a minor thing that they could correct or if it's something that really says, I don't know."

VonBoeckman also serves on a licensing review board for the state.  She says there are certain violations parents should pay close attention to.

"Health and safety has to be first, if you see something that shows lack of supervision, I think if you see something that is below standards as far as health and safety is concerned, cleanliness."

VonBoeckman also pointed out that while this is a great tool for parents, it shouldn't replace in-person visits. She also says parents should remain engaged while their children attend a center, and suggests asking plenty of questions and sharing any concerns.

Unfortunately, the site's new feature doesn't include information about whether a day care center has been fined, or faced probation or suspension. These disciplinary actions are often the result of serious health and safety violations.

A DHS spokesperson suggested calling the person listed in the column next to Compliance History, which reads 'Licensing Program Evaluator.'

These are DHS employees who are responsible for visiting the centers for licensing and evaluations. They can provide more historical data on a provider, as well as information on complaints and disciplinary action.

DHS' site also allows users to search daycares by name and address, but this will not link you to compliance history.

On another note, if you notice a list of several dates with the phrase 'No Violations Found,' this could mean the center has had complaints. All daycares get a certain number of unannounced visits per year, depending on their star rating and other factors. However, a complaint triggers an immediate evaluation.

Therefore, several visits over a short time period may indicate someone submitted a complaint.

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