Weakness uncovered in state daycare licensing system

6:26 PM, Feb 6, 2014   |    comments
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ATLANTA -- Just how much do you know about your child's daycare, the people you entrust to watch over your child's safety for hours every day?

Many assume if a facility has a license, it must be safe. Some parents do read the inspection reports posted by the Department of Early Care and Learning online, to learn about any violations the facility has received.



But 11Alive has learned about a weakness in the licensing system, that can allow serious safety violations to go unnoticed.

Our investigation began with an accident that happened nearly 400 miles away.

Alton Christopher says his grandson, Alex, was ejected from his daycare van in Memphis, TN after it hit a curb and flipped. According to the investigators, three of the small children inside were not in car seats.

"He had concrete burns on his face. He had a fractured bone in his nasal cavity. A big scrape hole in his elbow. He ended up having to have oral surgery," said Christopher as Alex sat on his lap, a big grin revealing his missing front teeth.

Tennessee records show the daycare, owned by Charles Taylor, voluntarily shut down after the accident. But 11Alive learned this wasn't the first problem for its director. According to state documents, five months before the crash, Delilah Taylor was denied a license to continue operating a different facility. According to the report, "the group size for the one and two year olds was not compliant" - basically she had too many toddlers in a room, and not enough staff. On another visit, a state investigator saw her staff putting 13 children into a 7 passenger van. That would have left nearly half of the children onboard without a seat belt.

With the couples' history, some would think the Taylors would get out of the daycare business. But we found them at it again, this time in Douglasville, Georgia.

We tried to talk with them about it at their home. A woman did come to the door, but refused to identify herself or answer our questions. Every time we visited the daycare, it was closed for repairs and we were told if we returned they would call police.

But the couple will have to talk to Georgia's Department of Early Care and Learning. Right now, Douglasville Preparatory does have a license and there are no violations. But Commissioner Bobby Cagle says based off our investigation, his office is now launching its own.

"In looking at the reports from Tennessee it appears both situations there were consistent transportation violations that were very much of concern," said Cagle.

Georgia has been getting tougher on daycare owners. In the past two years, enforcement actions shot up more than 1000%, allowing the department to provide centers more support to ensure safety issues are fixed.

This year, Georgia also started using finger prints to verify the identity and criminal history of every daycare employee. Cagle says children have never been safer.

But a Georgia background check won't catch violations like the ones Taylor faced in Tennessee.

"What I think needs to happen is that there needs to be a national registry that is developed to allow states to be able to very quickly, electronically, find that information from other states," he said.

He now plans to start lobbying for one, at the National Association of State Child Care Administrators meeting in March.

Delilah Taylor did eventually call to answer questions, but refused to go on camera.

Despite the documents that show she lost her license in Tennessee, Taylor says her daycare in Memphis closed over a disagreement with the lease, and denies ever doing anything that put children in danger.

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