by Donna McCollum
In the last two years, 18 Texas children have died in unlicensed childcare facilities. To help, the state is now launching an education campaign about daycare facilities.
Daycare director Susie Collier is wanting to help parents learn the importance of having regulations when it comes to caring for children. She has sung rhymes, wiped runny noses, and rocked children in her home for 34 years. She's currently caring for 12 children. Two full time staff people help her out. She proudly displays her state license in her home's hallway. "It's pretty much necessary for the safety of the children and for our own safety, as well. I think it protects both of us, the children and us," said Collier.
Yet, an increasing number of similar facilities attempt to skirt the rules requiring them to obtain certificates or licenses from the state. They apply to homes that care for more than three children. Owner and director of The Right Step, Lisa King said, "These are minimum standards, and many people do not follow them, and it concerns us that there are children out there that are at risk because they're not in a safe environment."
King owns a traditional childcare facility in a commercial building. The child advocate applauds the state's effort to teach parents how to protect their child's safety. King advised, "You need to now what's going on day to day in your child's life, whether it's in a childcare center, a home environment, an aunt, grandmother, or whoever is taking care of your child."
Collier encourages drop-ins. In addition, eight years ago, she organized a childcare network. "We meet once a month and we get about three to four hours of training. We usually have lunch, and we visit about an hour afterwards, and we learn a lot that way." She encourages all daycare operators to take part.
The bottom line is safety for children. Achieving it is a team effort from the state, parents, and childcare operators. Parents can check an online database to make sure your child's daycare center is legal. The web address www.txchildcaresearch.org. Parents can also call 1-866-TX-CHILD (1-866-892-4453).