INDIANAPOLIS - Indiana's child care regulations are confusing to many parents, a child care resource and referral expert says.
Mindy Bennett, program director at Child Care Answers, said, "Parents trust their neighbor, and they don't necessarily always know what to look for."
Bennett said parents should not rely solely on the state or the day care to tell them about safety issues when they happen.
"In the state of Indiana, we have a complex child care system that can be very confusing," said Bennett. "It's critical to get information, because you want to know who is caring for your children and you want to make sure they're in a safe environment."
In many cases, parents won't find about potential problems unless they know where to look.
"There's not a lot of requirements to notify parents specifically. That's why we post the information online," said Melanie Brizzi, Family and Social Services Administration Child Care Bureau administrator. "An inspection report is posted online. The provider is not obligated to share that with the parent."
The FSSA Carefinder website lists inspection information, validated complaints and pending enforcements.
"Our message to parents: If you can't find your provider on Carefinder, they are not registered or licensed with the state and you definitely need to do more research on that," said Brizzi.
The state notifies parents by mail only if there's an emergency closure, if a licensed facility is put on probation, or if a license is denied or revoked.
"Know the state can't immediately go in and shut a site down. There’s a process they have to go through," said Bennett.
Bennett said parents should use their five senses every single day as they drop off and pick up their child at a child care provider. Look for red flags, such as broken equipment.
"You're looking for safety issues. Are things in good repair or are they broken?” said Bennett. "If you do see a broken toy, is it taken out fairly quickly? You shouldn't come back the next day and see that same thing still there."
Bennett said providers should have a sign in and sign out sheet that allows them to keep track of children during an emergency.
Workers should also be washing their hands in between diaper changes and sanitizing the surface.
Bennett said parents should be vigilant when choosing a child care provider, as well as once the provider has already been chosen.
"Things change at child care sites, like turnover," said Bennett.
Bennett recommends stopping by unexpectedly.
"Most sites have open-door policies, and if they don't, that would be something I would question," said Bennett. "You need to have access to your child at all times."
Tips For Parents
- Plug in a provider's name to Carefinder and look for complaints, inspection reports and any pending enforcements.
- Call FSSA's Bureau of Child Care and ask questions to better understand the state's findings (1-877-511-1144)
- Drop by the child's day care unexpectedly during the day. What is seen at pickup and drop-off may be very different than what's happening during the middle of the day.
- Ask a provider to see a license, which should be posted in a public area. If the provider is on probation, it will say so on the license, along with the reasons why. Keep in mind that registered ministries are not licensed and do not have a probation process.
- Ask to see a copy of the day care's discipline policy.
- Ask to see proof of background checks on all employees.
- Ask what their current child-to-staff ratio is. Experts say accidents are more likely to happen when staffers are watching a lot of children.
- Ask if the provider is part of the state's voluntary rating system, called Paths to Quality. The state said this helps guarantee they’re meeting and/or exceeding licensing requirements regardless of the type of day care.
- Child Care Answers -- 317-631-4643
- Indiana Association for Child Care Resource and Referral and Resource Line -- 1-800-299-1627
- FSSA Carefinder
Friday at 11 p.m. on RTV6, the Call 6 Investigators dig into unlicensed home day cares. You’ll hear from a family whose baby died at an illegally operating home day care and what they want you to learn from their son’s death.