Almost 2,500 day care programs in Georgia have failed to meet the state’s standards for children’s health and safety at least once in the past four years, according to an analysis of internal records obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
The analysis found that 220 day cares received failing scores for at least two years in a row, and that at least 200 of those centers are still open, the newspaper reported in its Sunday editions.
The data was culled from scores quietly compiled by the state Department of Early Care and Learning since 2007. The newspaper obtained the records through an open records request.
The department said Friday it would create a process to identify and track day care centers that have repeatedly failed to meet the state’s standards.
Commissioner Bobby Cagle said the programs that have been noncompliant for three or four consecutive years only represented a small fraction of the more than 6,500 day care centers.
But, he told the newspaper, “one noncompliant program in one year is too many. We need to be working toward less noncompliant programs.”
Experts said the data raises concerns. Walter Gilliam, a Yale School of Medicine professor, told the newspaper it is a “major, major problem.”
“Programs that fail child care regulations are generally unsafe places for children to be,” said Gilliam, director of Yale University’s Center in Child Development & Social Policy. “It’s not simply that these programs aren’t going to be places where children can learn and grow and develop. It’s worse than that. These are the programs that should never have been opened in the first place.”
The newspaper’s report found that 29 day care programs were found to be noncompliant for four straight years. And five centers received the worst possible scores each year.
One center, based in Marietta, had amassed 191 violations over four years, including not giving children enough food, inappropriately disciplining them and once releasing the wrong child to the blind grandfather of another child. The center is still operating, and its director told the newspaper she was in compliance, declining further comment.
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