Emergency medical responders arrived to a home on the 3600 block of Campstone drive on September 8, 2008 to find a two-year-old baby boy that had passed away at the home. The homeowners were running an unlicensed daycare out of the home. The cause of death is not known at this time. There were no objective signs of injury at the scene. The name of the baby has not been released. It is unclear at this time if the parents of the infant knew the daycare was not licensed and in fact was being operated illegally in the home.   

In Texas, daycare operators are required to have licenses when caring for three or more unrelated children. The licensure process involves a background check, appropriate safety and rescue training and oversight of conditions in the daycare by the state. The licensing process ensures that daycare operators know policy and procedures for operating a daycare safely. Policies addressing safe environment issues, fire safety, emergency response procedures, record keeping, reporting and disclosure help ensure that your child is safe at daycare.   

Licensed child care workers should possess a skill set that integrates problem-solving abilities, child management skills with knowledge of child development, first-responder skills, nurturing qualities, appropriate disciplinary skills, social and stress management skills while interacting within groups and maintaining the ability to respond effectively to environmental cues. Most importantly remember that not all states require background checks or specific training for child care workers. Child care centers may be open and fully operational, but that is not a true measure of adherence to reasonable safety precautions or compliance with mandatory safety requirements.    

What do I look for in a good child day care center? 

1)       Keep in mind your child’s needs vary according to his or her age and level of development.  

2)       What is the ratio of caregivers to children? How are responsibilities of the caregivers divided up or assigned?  

3)       Does the child care center adhere to regulatory guidelines regarding staffing and building safety as set forth by the state or county?   

4)       Is the day care licensed, and by what regulatory body in the state or county?  

5)       Are annual physical exams and proof of childhood immunizations required? 

6)       Is there a file for each child that contains important contact, pick-up and health information? 

7)       Naturally, you will want an opportunity to interview the childcare giver(s). Ask questions about educational background, length of employment and feelings about the facility. Inquire of whether or not background checks and drug screens are done as a requirement of employment at the child care center. Also, what kind of annual education is required of the staff? 

8)       You will want to visit the child care center while the children are there and active.  

9)       Also you will want to see what provisions are available for nap time.  

10)   You should inquire about their emergency medical/fire/disaster plans. Of note, the leading cause of fires in day care centers is cooking, according to the U.S. Fire Administration.  

11)   Where is the first aid kit stored?  And what is in the first aid kit? Are OSHA standards observed? Is there a phone number for Poison control?  

12)   How are illness, prescription and OTC medications managed? Does the daycare have accident and illness report forms? Is there a policy and procedure for managing individual injuries? Do child care givers wash their hands between sick and well children to reduce the spread of infections? 

13)   Ask to see the kitchen and nutritional inventory. You will observe for cleanliness and the variety of food choices.  Inquire as to where the children eat and how the food is served. Ask to see a menu. 

14)   Assess the building structure as you arrive to the building. As you enter the building, assess for structural integrity and the quality of maintenance. Are fire inspections for this building required? 

15)   Is there fencing around the outdoor play area? What activity is going on around the day care building? 

16)   What child safety features are in place? Are the smoke alarms in working order? How about carbon monoxide detectors?  

17)   What type of activity schedule is in place, do the children play outside also? 

18)    Are family needs respected and valued by the childcare center? 

19)   Does the facility provide a policy and procedure booklet? 

20)   Do you have reliable referrals that recommend the child care center?  

21)   How are disciplinary measures implemented? How is conflict managed? 

22)   How are toileting issues handled? Is hand washing emphasized? 

23)   What toys are available, how are they cleaned and are they age appropriate? 

24)   What stories, books and music are available for the kids? 

25)   And finally, how does your child respond to being left at the day care? When you pick your child up, is he/she happy or irritable?  

Web link resources  

http://www.childcare.net/library/handleinjury.shtml  

http://www.injuryfree.org/index.cfm 

http://www.saferchild.org/caregiver.htm    

http://www.childfun.com/safety/daycarelist.shtml 

http://nccic.org/index.html 

http://store.parentsactionstore.org/prostores/servlet/StoreFront 

http://www.americatakingaction.com/childcare 

Additional resources 

U.S. Fire Administration, Topical Fire Research Series. Volume 2, Issue

       15November 2001 (Rev. March 2002). Daycare Center Fires 

Childhood Unintentional Injuries: Factors Predicting Injury

       Risk Among Preschoolers. Authored by Janet Abboud Dal Santo, DRPH, Robert M.

       Goodman, PHD, Deborah Glik, SCD, and Kirby Jackson, BA  

Understanding Unintentional Injury Risk in Young Children II: The Contribution of

       Caregiver Supervision, Child Attributes, and Parent Attributes. Authored by

       Barbara A. Morrongiello, PHD, Michael Corbett, MM, Meghan McCourt, MM, and

       Natalie Johnston, BA

Christopher Keane
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California Child Abuse and Child Injury Lawyer
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