Saturday, January 10, 2009

Information is Flowing...EXCEPT for Indiana Daycare System

Ever notice how many political battles are fought over who gets information?

Environmental Democrats want to ban a particular chemical whose toxicity is disputed. Those Dems know the best they can get is to have manufacturers notify neighbors of the chemicals they use, so they ask for that instead. And industry fights it!

Evangelical Republicans want to completely ban movies with gay cowboys. They know the best they can get is forcing the Motion Picture Association of America to offers a more extensive "rating system" overseen by "real parents" that permits them to determine if they want their kids to see movies rated "R" for "mild off-screen grunting and implied sodomy." So, they ask for that instead. And the MPAA fights it!

Okay, the latter is NOT part of the actual rating system, but you get the jist - truthful information can hurt an industry, which brings me to....

Indiana daycares.....

An incident occurs at my step-son's daycare, and I want to find out if something comparable has ever happened. Surely, such a highly-regulated entity as a daycare will have to provide this information, right? Sort of.

Go to the State of Indiana's daycare finder website, and you get a listing of all the "licensed" daycares in Indiana. If you pick a specific facility, you see three headings: "Inspection Information," "Complaint Information," and "Enforcement Information."

I click on the "inspection" tab and learn...OH NO! The daycare doesn't have a thermometer in the kitchen freezer!!! While a lot of these inspection inquiries, such as whether the green beans are cut into sizes "no larger than 1/2 an inch," can certainly speak to the overall management and a generalized concern for safety, this inspection info doesn't tell you whether a daycare has been repeatedly reported for mysterious child injuries. This must be under, "Complaint Information," I tell myself.

I click on that tab, and this is what I get:

*All complaints are investigated. Child care licensing and registration files are public record. Only validated complaints that are in violation for regulatory issues are posted to this site. "Undetermined" complaints and "not validated" complaints are maintained in the official licensed child care center, licensed child care home, or unlicensed registered child care ministry file. These files are located in the Division of Family Resources central office in Indianapolis.

If you read that again, the intriguing phrase is "in violation for regulatory issues." It means that if you have a "he said, she said," the general public will probably never learn about it no matter how often the same thing happens with the same employee. Unless you go to the central office in Indianapolis (sorry, residents of South Bend and Evansville!), you don't get to learn about the kids who say the daycare worker hit them, how or if a daycare even reported the allegation to authorities, how or if authorities investigated, and how the complaint was resolved, either by the daycare or the State. Did somebody get reprimanded? Fired? We don't know!

In short, you'll get nothing and like it.

Now, in fairness, I assumed I must be missing something, so I called the agency and was told that if I wanted specific information for the facility in question, I would have to call an individual contractor whose job was to investigate these allegations in that area. I was then given a cell phone number. I called it, and I did not get a return call.

This is the process by which you can learn whether your daycare is safe? Through a single individual contractor who you can reach only by cell who has the files somewhere NOT in the Indianapolis main office? It wasn't clear whether I would have to set up an appointment to look at her investigative files, or even if I COULD do so. The fact I had to make a call to find out WHO to call tells you this is information nobody wants "out there."

And this is what you do to curry favor with the daycare providers of Indiana. Keep the public blind. Thanks for the emphasis on child protection, Governor Daniels! (And if this was policy before you, shame on those Democrats for whom I worked as well).



Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

Want to see Abdul turn white or Tom John turn red? Just mention SpectorPro and Beth White in the same sentence. And FWIW the previous statment is not legally actionable. On the contrary it will probaby happen..