UPDATE: Reporter Tim Eberly sent me a note answering my question below. One of the sources in the story said you could see reports but I wanted more information for us. So here is more info on where to find those reports and what they mean vs what the AJC is reporting.
From Tim Eberly: The state agency that oversees day-care programs, the Department of Early Care and Learning, posts reports for all inspections at each day-care for the past 18 months. If you want to pass along the link on your blog, here it is: http://decal.ga.gov/. While they’re certainly helpful, those inspection reports include a minimal amount of information about violations committed. The annual scores that we wrote about on Sunday take ALL of those visits and violations into account in a given year and give child-care programs a compliance score. One could find it valuable because it puts all those individual inspections and violations into context. It helps parents see the bigger picture.
Here is the start of the original story:
An AJC special investigation has found that nearly 2,500 day care programs in Georgia have failed to meet the state’s standards for health and safety at least once in the last four years.
“An AJC analysis of state day care ratings that have never been made public also found that 220 day cares received failing scores for at least two years in a row — and at least 200 of them are still open. One of the worst offenders racked up 191 violations, including failure to give children enough food and refusing to permit state inspectors to speak to children during an investigation. That center is still open. “
“Since 2007, the state Department of Early Care and Learning — known as DECAL — has quietly kept score on day care programs across the state, giving them annual “compliance” scores based on how many violations they received. While the state says it began sharing the scores with day care providers three years ago, it’s unclear whether all 6,557 providers know about the system even now. “
“State officials defended the decision to keep the scores from the public, saying they were for internal purposes only and helped DECAL determine which day cares need more attention. But the AJC’s analysis of the data, obtained through an Open Records Act request, revealed hundreds of day cares that have repeatedly fallen short…”
“When asked why the compliance scores haven’t been made public, Cagle said: ‘Because that information was never intended for that purpose. That information was intended for the purpose of internal monitoring only.’ ”
It absolutely doesn’t surprise me that so many day care centers are violating safety and health standards but what IS surprising is that the state is documenting those violations but NOT sharing it with parents.
Shouldn’t parents be given the maximum amount of information the state can provide so they can make the best possible choice about the care of their children?
It doesn’t make sense to me that you can walk into any McDonald’s or Outback Steakhouse and know how that restaurant did on its last inspection and specifically where it failed to meet standards for cleanliness. However, despite the state having similar information about day care centers, the information is not readily available to parents.
What better way to get day care centers to literally “clean up” their acts than to have their violations posted just like a restaurant. Then parents know whether to be weary and what to look for. Also wouldn’t that lead to the free market economy doing what it does best – parents would withdraw their children from the failing centers and those centers would close.
The story says that one center had 191 violations over a period of years and continued to stay open. If there were 191 violations listed and hanging in the lobby to the child care center, you better believe parents would not be using it.
Two other points to note from the story:
At one point the story says: “However, local child care advocate Pat Willis said she didn’t object to DECAL not giving the public access to that information, largely because parents can view individual inspection reports online.”
I think we need more information on this: Where is this information available and why don’t parents know about it? (I will send a note to our reporter on this and get more information for us.)
The other item of interest:
“In response to the AJC’s reporting, DECAL said Friday that it would create a process to identify and track day cares that have repeatedly failed to meet the state’s standards.”
But that doesn’t say they are going to find a way to notify the consumer.
If you feel strongly that day care center violations should be posted or in some way be transparent and readily available to parents, contact DECAL. Here is contact information for the department, as well as the commissioner’s name. His email is on the web site.
Bright from the Start: Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning
2 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive SE, 754 East Tower
Atlanta, Georgia 30334
DECAL Commissioner Bobby Cagle
Are you surprised by this AJC investigation? Are you surprised the state lets the centers continue to operate with multiple violations? Are you surprised that parents aren’t being notified in some way about the violations? Would you like to have signs posted in the day care centers with its most recent inspection report? Would that affect your decision making?