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State Keeping Close Watch on Day Care Centers

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RALEIGH — When parents visit a day care center, they leave no stone unturned in their efforts to make sure the center is a safe place for their children. But parents aren't the only ones. Now, the state is also looking at day care centers under a microscope.

North Carolina issues six-month, temporary licenses to new centers. Each center must pass at least two announced inspections in order to get a permanent license. WRAL-TV5'sAmanda Lambwent along on a three-month inspection at Honey Bees day care center Tuesday where she learned that even little things count, such as having working batteries in all toys and serving appropriate drinks at lunchtime.

When state child care consultants inspect a day care center, they leave no stone unturned. They check attendance records, activity plans, staff-to-child ratios, feeding schedules, toys and the location of cleaning products.

N.C. Child Care consultant Sarah McGuire says inspections are always thorough, but a follow-up inspection is extremely so.

"On a three month follow up we are very thorough," says McGuire. "We are very thorough on a renewal visit, but on a three month follow up we're very thorough."

McGuire says staying in compliance with he rules can be overwhelming.

"We have a checklist, we go room by room, we go down that list over and over," says McGuire.

Honey Bee owner Lisa Lincoln had violations at centers she has owned, but she also has a new center with a clean slate, and she wants to make it work. She hopes parents will not rely soley on written inspections, but also on personal visits when they choose a center.

"How one consultant perceives something is completely different than what maybe really happened," says Lincoln. "I think parents should take the time to come observe, come watch, we welcome it."

Lincoln says while the inspections can seem too picky, there are important tips to be learned.

Few centers are shut down. Instead, the state says their goal is to help operators keep them open.

"We give them every opportunity to show they can meet the standards," says McGuire. "I think everybody can."

There are only 3 day care inspectors in Wake County. One is responsible for 230 day care centers and home based day cares. The next scheduled visit here will be at 6 months, but chances are there will be an unannounced visit before then something Lisa Lincoln says she welcomes.

Honey Bees will have one more inspection before it receives a permanent license.

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Amanda Lamb, Reporter
Lori Foushee, Photographer
MJ Ainsley, Web Editor

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