Sunday, February 28, 2010
It's a fact of life these days...most of us must put our children in day care and most of us may assume that the state has proper oversight over those day care facilities. But over one-third of our state's day cares are never inspected.
Efforts are underway to change the system. Until then, one Kansas family has a warning for parents. They say lack of inspection is what cause their little girl's death.
"It was supposed to be a regular day. I took her to day care that morning and dropped her off," said Steve Patrick. "I said goodbye and hours later, she was gone."
Eighteen-month-old Ava was the Patricks only child. Last April, while unsupervised at a Johnson County in-home day care, she became lodged between the slats of a makeshift baby fence.
It was Ava's first day at this new day care and her last day on earth.
"We don't get to take her to her first day of school. We don't get to see her graduate high school....college," said Ava's mother, Alecia Patrick. "Steve doesn't get to walk her down the aisle."
Many day care facilities in Kansas are licensed by the state. They have mandated, unannounced inspections by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment every year. The Patricks say those inspections are crucial. But the day care home where Eva died, like thousands of others in Kansas, have NEVER had a state worker walk through their door.
There are a little over 6,700 child care facilities in Kansas. A little over 3,000 of them are licensed and must be inspected by the state every year. But roughly 2,500 of them are what are called "registered" day care homes and are never inspected.
Additionally, just about anyone can become a "registered" day care provider. The only requirement: fill out a form and pay the state $5.
"The parents that are taking them to a place that is "registered" have the assumption that there's some kind of oversight that really doesn't exist," says Gary Brunk of the group Kansas Action for Children. "The only time those get inspected is after something bad has happened or there is a complaint."
In the last three years, several bad things have happened, says the KAC.
Since 2007, 30 children have died in Kansas day cares, ten of those in Sedgwick County. Although some of those children died in inspected day cares, the KAC says we can drastically cut the number of deaths.
In November, the KAC launched a campaign that includes billboards, a website and lobbying to mandate their campaign called "Inspect the Rest" to support Senate Bill 447.
"We inspect beauty salons, barber shops, restaurants and those inspections mean something," says State Senator Julia Lynn. She is sponsoring SB 447. "One of the major things this bill will do will provide an inspection of every registered home day care provider."
"We had no idea registered day cares never got inspected," says Ava's dad, Patrick. "We found out a lot of parents aren't aware that there is a thing as registered day cares."
That's why the Patricks, other parents, and the Kansas Action for Children are on a mission to try and get the Senate Bill passed. If not, they want all Kansas parents to learn from their daughter's death and to realize they may be putting their "world" in a day care that took $5 to open and has never been inspected by the State.
"We are doing this for Ava," say Alecia and Steve. "She doesn't have a voice anymore. We have to be her voice."