Daycare Centers Put To The Test - - The News for South Mississippi

Daycare Centers Put To The Test

Health department inspector Heather Baughman will spend three to five hours at Wee Ones Daycare. She wants to see everything, the kitchen, play rooms, and all the center's child and employee records.

"Just everything you could conceive of that could go wrong in a daycare center has to be covered in that inspection of the child's records, plus a complete inspection of the qualifications of the people who are supervising these children," Health Department Director Dr. Bob Travnicek said.

The children aren't the only ones being supervised. In this center, video cameras watch everything that goes on.

"It not only protects us, it protects the children. The parents are at ease, they feel a lot better about their children being here because it's taped everyday so if anything does happen we have it on videotape," center owner Jonna Marsland said.

Heather Baughman is only one of two inspectors assigned to about 250 daycare centers in the six southern counties. The health department says it needs more staff to make inspections more often. Inspections are made once a year. Dr. Travnicek says there should be two a year, but he doesn't have enough people to do that.

"Ideally, we really should have five inspectors. That's the standard, the national standard, 50 daycare centers per inspector."

But Dr. Travnicek says the state's tight budget doesn't look promising for hiring the inspectors he needs. That means Heather Baughman and the one other inspector must keep doing the work of five, trying to make sure children are safe at daycare.

If an inspector cites a daycare center for violations, the center's owner can be fined $50 for each violation. If there are two or more violations in the same one year license period, the fine goes up to $100 per violation. Daycare centers must get a new license every year.

By Marcia Hill

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