SAN ANTONIO – Every parent wants the best care for their child, but how do you make sure they get it when you aren't around?
Following an incident where the parents of a San Antonio baby boy say he was bitten 27 times at an illegal day care operation, the Defenders investigated what parents need to know to make sure their children are safe at day care.
Any person in Texas who is compensated for regularly taking care of at least one child who isn't related to them must have a permit issued by the state. State law defines "regular care" as either:
- Four hours a day, three or more days a week for three or more consecutive weeks,
- or, Four hours a day for 40 or more days in the period of 12 months.
If they don't have the permit, they're running an illegal operation.
Shawna Salazar, a Child Care Licensing investigator said, "Where's your certificate?" should be a parent's first question when they're interviewing a potential day care.
Salazar said parents should also consider how day care providers handle discipline, if they have CPR and first aid training and if the staff has any other training.
If the kids are already in child care, Salazar suggested popping in for visits. If the provider won't often let a parent past the door, it's a red flag. Frequent bites or scratches would be another red flag.
Salazar advised contacting Child Care Licensing with concerns, even if it's something small like the child getting the wrong formula bottle. Parents don't need to wait for something like a broken bone.
She also said parents should not be nervous to ask the child care provider questions. It's their child. The day care is providing a service.
"And just like any type of service that you receive, if you are not happy with that service, you need to be questioning and possibly looking at alternatives," Salazar said.
But why worry if a child care provider has a permit at all?
Depending on how many kids the day care is looking after, there is increasing state oversight and requirements. At a minimum, everyone in the day care older than 14 will have a background check.
Parents can also track any violations, investigations or inspection for permitted day cares on the DFPS website, which is also the best way to ensure a day care is legitimate. If they're on the website, they're good to go.
There's no way to know how many illegal day care operations are out there. The state only started proactively seeking out these operations two years ago.
However, Salazar said it is not a problem to find the five illegal operations she's required to look into each week.
She also pointed out that even if an operation is illegal, it doesn't make them bad. Many just don't know they have to get a permit through the state, Salazar said.