It is one of the first investments a parent can make in their child's life. It's often a necessary expenditure, and one that could start their little one out on the right foot.
But, when parents feel that a daycare center isn't meeting their expectations...they usually take action, like Cecela Martinez. "I changed daycare centers because they weren't interactive with my baby," she said.
And, so does the state of Georgia. Kay Hellwig is the Assistant Commissioner for Child Care. She says centers have rules and standards that they must meet. "We've made significant improvements in meeting the rules. We first started tracking this about 4 years ago and, at that time, about 68% were compliant. This past year, about 11% were not compliant, or 89% were compliant, and we think we're on target, our programs are on target," she said.
Ann Brinson runs Brinson Group Daycare. She's been caring for children for nearly 40 years...her former students now bring their children.
According to state records, Brinson's center has been compliant for the past 3 years. "Health and safety is first, they check hand washing to make sure diapering is done correctly. They check all of your equipment to make sure it's all safe and not broken. They check the teachers to make sure they are doing all that they're supposed to do with the children," Brinson told me.
Appletree Academy II also passed state inspections. Nikita Futo is the centers director. "One of the biggest things to get under compliance with the state of Georgia is to have that teacher training," Futo said.
Currently, teachers only need a high school diploma, but new rules will require staff members to have 2- or 4-year degrees, depending on their position.
There are more than 6,000 daycare centers in the state of Georgia, and all of them are expected to meet state standards in order to operate.
Since 2007, the state of Georgia has kept records on the safety standards of daycare centers. To date, nearly 2,500 of those centers have failed.
"Just because you get one mandated training every year, you could actually get more than one, depending on how many things you are not in compliance with...and they will come back out and don't want to see the same things wrong," said Futo.
Both centers we talked to encourage their children to engage in age-appropriate learning activities. The children also learn social skills that are necessary for a productive life.
"Some of my parents choose not to put them in the K-4 program because they feel like they get the social interaction they need here, and the learning that they need here," said Brinson.
Parents like Cecilia and her husband say that's important.
If you're curious or concerned about a daycare center, visit http://decal.ga.gov to see complaints, scores, inspections and monitoring records of any daycare center in the state of Georgia. Click here for state resources in South Carolina.
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