Local News

N.C. Gets Poor Grades in Day Care

Posted November 18, 1996 12:00 a.m. EST

— Parents, especially new parents, know what it's like. They feel like they gamble with their children's well-being every time they drop the kids off at day care. The Charlotte Observer, North Carolina has some of the weakest child-care regulations in the country. That leads one to the logical possible conclusion that abuse and neglect are more likely here.

There are nearly 8,000 child-care facilities regulated by the state. The published report says 1,200 children have been injured in some of these facilities in the past year.

The state admits it does not have the most restrictive laws, but regulators say they are trying to improve the quality of care. Some center owners say they have chosen to exceed regulations, which they say don't do enough.

Michele Blake says she looked long and hard before deciding on a place for her child.

When Blake found the right center for her son, she also found a job as a preschool teacher there.

Ann Caspar, the owner of the Discovery Center, says she hears horror stories about other centers when parents come to her. She says parents need to look at cleanliness, especially in food preparation. They should also make sure medicines and chemical cleaners are kept in locked boxes, and should check the qualifications of teachers and staff. Child-to-staff ratios also are important, says Caspar.

Caspar has added more teachers than the state requires, and has an open-door policy for parents whose children are enrolled.

Higher standards mean families can often wait up to two years for an opening at a center such as Discovery; Blakes say it's worth the wait.

In an effort the improve the situation in North Carolina, the state is offering more opportunities and incentives for child-care education. So far, 8,000 people have gone through the state's child-care credential program. Officials also have lowered the staff-to-child ratio for infant care, but many centers think state officials should do more.