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N.C. Gets Poor Grades in Day Care

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RALEIGH — Parents, especially new parents, know whatit's like. They feel like they gamble with their children's well-beingevery time they drop the kids off at day care.The Charlotte Observer, North Carolina has some oftheweakest child-care regulations in the country. That leads one tothe logical possible conclusion that abuse and neglect are more likelyhere.

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, butregulators say they are trying to improve the quality of care. Some centerowners say they have chosen to exceed regulations, which they say don't doenough.

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

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

Ann Caspar, the owner of the Discovery Center, says she hears horrorstories about other centers when parents come to her. She says parentsneed to look at cleanliness, especially in food preparation. They shouldalso 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 anopen-door policy for parents whose children are enrolled.

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

In an effort the improve the situation in North Carolina, the state isoffering more opportunities and incentives for child-care education. Sofar, 8,000 people have gone through the state's child-care credentialprogram. Officials also have lowered the staff-to-child ratio for infant care, but many centers thinkstate officials should do more.

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