The drowning death of a 1-year-old boy at a church day care earlier this week is reigniting a push at the Statehouse for more regulations at such facilities.
Juan Cardenas drowned Wednesday
in 2 feet of water in an uncovered baptismal pool at Praise Fellowship Assembly of God, which also houses an unlicensed church day care, police said.
Had the facility been licensed, state regulators would have looked to ensure the pool was inaccessible to children at all times, such as behind a locked door, Call 6 Investigator Kara Kenney
Church day cares have to meet about 21 state standards, compared with 192 standards for a licensed day care center, and 94 for a licensed home day care, according to a Call 6 Investigation from May 2011
RTV6 has learned that Sen. Greg Taylor, D-Indianapolis, has drafted an amendment
that would bring church day care regulations more in line with other types of day cares by adding staffing ratios, training requirements and other safety measures, such as requiring the person watching the children be at least 18 years old.
Child Care Answers, a referral agency for parents choosing day care, supports the amendment.
"We believe all children deserve to be kept healthy and safe," said Mindy Bennett, programs director for the organization
House Bill 1136 would also establish an advisory committee for child care ministries.
Child advocates told RTV6 they're expecting the issue to be discussed in the Legislature next week.
But previous efforts to further regulate church day cares have failed, in part due to pressure from conservative organizations including Advance America and the American Family Association of Indiana.
"Many churches would rather close than accept government control," Eric Miller with Advance America told a Senate committee in February 2011.
Miller, perhaps the most vocal opponent of increased regulation of church day cares, did not return an email and phone call Friday.
The American Family Association of Indiana told RTV6 that increased regulation toes the line between separation of church and state.
"I think we really need to avoid rushing to government action every time a tragedy happens," said Executive Director Micah Clark. "We're very concerned about government regulating churches. We also believe the parents putting their kids in day care every day probably had a better sense of what's going on and the quality of the day care."
Clark pointed out that Taylor's amendment and House Bill 1136 have yet to receive public testimony.
"I would like to see the churches and day care centers testify to the implications of this, and that hasn't happened this session," Clark said. "We really need to hear from the people this would impact."
Casey Williams, a McCordsville parent, said families are often unaware of the disparity in regulations. Williams sent her child to a church day care and now advocates for stricter regulations.
"The owner was a convicted felon and wasn't even supposed to be around kids," Williams said. "As parents, you don't know what you don't know."
While state law does not require it, churches can voluntarily get certified and meet higher safety and health regulations through Paths to Quality, such as Daystar Daycare on North Rural Street.
"We feel for the safety of the children and the sanity of the staff that it's been very important to follow those child to staff ratios," said Laura Dyke, a manager with Daystar Daycare.
Taylor was unavailable Friday to discuss his amendment with RTV6.
Parents can call the Child Care Answers referral line at 317-631-4643 or the state Bureau of Child Care Information Line at 877-511-1144. For help choosing a provider, parents are asked to call the Referral and Resource Line at 800-299-1627. A Spanish language line is available at 866-865-7056.
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