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"Child care centers licensed by our agency must abide by regulations intended to ensure that children are safe, and chief among these requirements are that children be properly supervised at all times," said DCFS Secretary Ruth Johnson. "Improper supervision is considered a serious violation that puts the safety of children at great risk and cannot be taken lightly."
Johnson said that Louisiana Revised Statute 46:1419, as amended by Acts 2009, No. 194, gives DCFS sole authority to deny or revoke a license when a center fails to comply with the provisions of the Child Care Facilities and Child Placing Agencies Licensing Act or any published rules governing child care.
DCFS issued the revocation notices due to noncompliance with the statutes and with the Child Day Care Class A minimum standards.
Violations cited in the notice to Haley's Learn and Play Corner in Shreveport include failing to document or notify DCFS or the parents of an incident involving a 2-year-old child found walking unsupervised about one block from the child care center. The center also was cited for failing to provide timely notification to parents of incidents of injuries and accidents involving children in their care on four occasions in a six-month period.
Miss Muffett Head Start in Alexandria was cited for failing to provide direct supervision and appropriate child-to-staff ratios for children on four occasions in nine months. Most recently, improper supervision resulted in a special needs child wandering away after arriving at the center on a bus. The child was found 40 minutes later on a different bus parked outside the center. Other incidents included two children who ingested medicine brought into the center by one of the children and a total of 13 children left unsupervised during naptime. Additionally, the center failed to conform to state laws when transporting children, including the use of seat belts and child restraints and failed to maintain the vehicle used to transport children in good repair.
"Child-to-staff ratios and supervisory requirements are in place to prevent such incidents, and improper reporting and failing to notify parents of a child's injuries are very serious violations," said Johnson.
Kiddie Corral of Cenla was cited for failing to provide direct supervision for children in the care of the center and for failing to maintain proper child-to-staff ratios. The incidents include five one and two-year-old children left unsupervised at naptime and outdoors at play time and as many as 21 children from age three to 11 under the supervision of a single staff member.
Lake Ponchartrain Head Start was cited for failing to conduct criminal records checks for all paid and non-paid staff prior to employment. The center was cited in violation of this requirement on four occasions.
"Criminal background checks are required by law for both paid and non-paid employees of child care centers, including substitutes and volunteers," said Johnson. "This law was approved by the Louisiana State Legislature and signed by Governor Jindal to protect children and to ensure the safest environment possible for children; it is imperative that centers conduct proper checks and not put children at risk."
The centers were notified of their right to contest the decision by submitting a written request for a fair hearing before an administrative law judge within 15 days of receipt of the notice and citing specific reasons why the facility believes the DCFS's decision was reached in error.
"The vast majority of licensed child care facilities around the state are doing a good job providing safe care for children in accordance with regulations, but when centers put children at risk, we must take action," said Johnson. "It is critical that these regulations be consistently observed by and enforced for all child care facilities in our state so that we can be sure that Louisiana's licensed child care facilities are providing high quality, safe and secure care for our children."
DCFS also will terminate the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) for the two centers that participate in the program, Haley's Learn and Play Corner and Kiddie Corral of Cenla, pending the outcome of the appeals process. CCAP provides funding to child care centers to help low-income families pay for child care. DCFS will notify all parents with children enrolled at the centers who received CCAP to inform them of the termination and to offer them assistance in securing other child care arrangements.
Parents can view online inspection reports for child care facilities licensed by DCFS at www.dcfs.la.gov/ChildCareFacilities.