Questions for our daycare experts

Avatar for outside_the_box_mom
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Registered: 03-26-2003
Questions for our daycare experts
Tue, 08-19-2003 - 8:09am
In today's Boston Globe is an article about an unlicensed provider and a child who died in her care. The woman is accused of shaking the baby to death.

Here is the article link:

I'll post the full text below.

But here are my questions for our daycare experts -- Virgo, SRmagoo, etc.

One of the questions one should ask of providers is "Do you have a license?" What are some other questions parents can ask prospective providers? I ask because my good friend in CA just found out her provider has been hitting the children, including hers. How does one learn these things? Are there warning signs? As my friend said, "You can't ask, 'Do you hit children?'" Nor would I think to ask, "Do you leave children unattended in automobiles?"

Do you think the child still would have died if the woman had had a license? What about in light of the fact the childcare board is hesitant to throw the full weight of the law at their providers? Is this something the board should consider?

Do you think the $250 fine is low or high?

Also, one mother is quoted as saying the provider never raised her voice to the children, but she only saw the provider 40 minutes a day. Is there any way parents can get to know providers or view how they work? I personally sat with one of my providers for 3 hours prior to hiring her and asked her a ton of questions, one of which was, "How much TV do the children watch? and she said, "Just in the mornings, during drop off." However, the TV was on most of the day -- and once my son started talking, I was shocked at just how much he watched. So how does a parent find out these things?

These are questions respectfully asked. I'm not coming from "all daycare is bad" but would like your professional opinion on this case and what could have been done differently, what needs to be changed with regards to Mass and its state regulations, and what parents can do to find the high-quality providers.


Here is the article:

In Reading, questions linger

Neighbors, friends baffled by charge in day care death

By Farah Stockman, Globe Staff, 8/19/2003

READING -- First, there was an order. Then a warning. Then a fine. But none of it stopped Ann Power, a Reading grandmother, from continuing to run a family-style day care out of her home. Nearly a decade after the office of Child Care Services took away her license following a complaint that she was caring for too many youngsters, the swing set in Power's backyard continued to fill with children and the boxes of toys on her porch -- filled to the brim and separated by age group -- continued to entertain tiny hands.


But no longer. After Power, 54, pleaded not guilty earlier this month to shaking to death a 3-month-old baby in her care, the children are gone but painful questions remain. For those who know her, the enduring mystery is how a woman who cared for their children for so many years with fun art projects and homemade chicken soup could be charged with murder.

"Whatever was wrong didn't happen in that house," said Tim Coakley, whose granddaughter once attended Power's day care and who has been her neighbor for 22 years.

"They gave wonderful care," he said, adding that he would trust her with his grandchild again.

But for those who don't know her, the salient question is why the Office of Child Care Services appeared powerless to shut her down.

The agency ordered her to stop operating in 1994, 1995, and again in 1997, going as far as driving by her home in unmarked cars to find out whether she was still operating. After each round of orders, which she unsuccessfully appealed, the agency was convinced that she had stopped operating. But she always started up again after the coast was clear.

The agency might have never known Power was back in business had McKenzie Rose Corrigan of Stoneham not died in June from injuries that included brain damage, retinal bleeding, and internal hemorrhaging. At the time, Power had 13 children in her care, six of whom were infants. The legal limit for a licensed family day care like Power's is six.

Now, agency officials are considering asking the Legislature for tougher sanctions against defiant day-care providers -- including raising the maximum fine above $250 and adding a police escort to accompany child care officials when they issue warnings.

But records show that the Office of Child Care Services has been reluctant to use the toughest tools it already has at its disposal. In addition to issuing a cease-and-desist order or a fine, the agency could seek an injunction in civil court and urge prosecutors to file criminal charges. But it rarely does that.

Despite Power's continued defiance, the agency did not seek an injunction against her until after the Stoneham baby's death.

The last injunction the agency sought was about five years ago, although it is currently considering seeking two more injunctions, said Katherine Clark, general counsel for the Office of Child Care Services. Neither Clark, who has worked at the agency for six years, nor prosecutors in Middlesex or Suffolk counties could recall a time when the agency had asked for criminal charges solely for the crime of operating an illegal day care.

Agency officials say they are reluctant to involve the courts, largely because they see their mission as bringing providers into compliance, not shutting them down.

"Our goal is to have any family that needs child care in Massachusetts to have access to safe, educational child care," said Clark, who added that most unlicensed home day-care providers need guidance, not punishment.

"Often, it's just not really understanding the process or where you cross the line" between baby-sitting for relatives and operating a day care, she said.

Clark said the people like Power -- who was "absolutely committed to providing illegal child care" -- are very rare. "It is our hope that parents will ask more questions before signing up with an unlicensed provider," she said.

But some parents who put their children in Power's care did not mind that she had no license. Her Francis Drive home, on a manicured cul-de-sac, recalled an era when neighbors lived next door to one another for generations and trusted one another more than a government agency.

For those neighbors and friends who heard about Power's child care through word-of-mouth, it mattered more that she was the kind of woman who sent a card when your relative was sick. Her home -- complete with a basketball hoop, American flag, and well-tended flowers -- seemed to provide a perfect family environment. Her husband, who fixes cars for a living, often tinkered around the house during the day. Her daughter grew up to marry the boy next door.

"I didn't have a problem with the fact that she did not have a license," said Mireille Coakley, who put her 3-year-old daughter in Power's care for about five months last year. "My husband has known her family for years. . . . All I cared about was that my daughter was happy and safe, and she was."

Coakley, a sales manager from a nearby town, said her husband had grown up with Power's own children, so when her baby's doctor suggested she switch from a large day-care provider to a home situation to lessen the chances of catching an illness, Power was the family's first choice.

The Coakleys did not know that Power had been ordered to stop caring for children three times, but they were aware that a baby had died in her day care in 1984. That death was ruled sudden infant death syndrome, and, like the Office of Child Care Services at the time, no one had reason to believe she was responsible.

Coakley, who said she spent about 20 minutes each morning at Power's home dropping her daughter off and another 20 minutes each afternoon when she picked her daughter up, said she never heard Power raise her voice.

On Mother's Day, Power sent children home with mugs decorated with construction paper and candy. She charged about $100 a week for a toddler, Coakley recalled. But it was their trust, not the low cost, that made families choose her.

When Coakley first heard about the charges, she wondered if the injuries might have happened before the baby arrived at Power's home -- a possibility investigators say was ruled out by doctors.

"If she did what they say she did, that's horrible, and thank God it wasn't my child," Coakley said. "But I just hope that she's treated fairly and it's not a witch trial. She deserves the benefit that everyone does -- that she's innocent until proven guilty."


Avatar for virgogirl914
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Registered: 03-25-2003
Tue, 08-19-2003 - 8:35am
I'm just reading this morning while I eat my breakfast. . .I'm teaching all day so I'll answer you fully this evening. Good questions.
Avatar for ahlmommy
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Registered: 03-26-2003
Tue, 08-19-2003 - 8:45am
Just an addition to your post...I was watching TV last night, and saw a story of another DC owner that killed a 3 month old baby. She called 911 when the baby didn't wake up. She lied and didn't tell the paramedics that she had given the baby Benadryl. When the baby died, and an autopsy was performed, the baby had 3 times the adult dose. The DC owner then explained that she put Benadryl in the baby's bottle and fed it to her. She only received 8 years, a fine, and was ordered to never provide care for children again. I personally feel she should have received life in prison. She is a sick person, that murdered a baby because she could not be bothered with caring for that child.

Edited 8/19/2003 8:49:45 AM ET by ahlmommy
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Registered: 03-26-2003
Tue, 08-19-2003 - 9:56am
I don't know how MA does it,, but in MD and VA, you can get a list of licensed providers from the county you live in. Additionally, providers who advertise in the newspapers are required to provide their license #; and the newspaper could be hugely fined for taking an ad without the license information in it.

One of the first things I would ask for would be to SEE the license itself. Providers are required to keep it on the premises.

Another thing to ask for is reference; not just from current clients, but former clients. I would also ask permission to talk to her immediate neighbors (most likely to see behaviors such as yelling, hitting, etc.)

One of my most prefered methods is also to visit the provider in her home WHILE her children are there...and watch the children interact with her. Small children should instinctively turn to her for guidance in how to react to your (the stranger) presence. Shyer ones should seek the comfort of her touch and tend to put her between you and them. Children should demonstrate a comfort level in approaching her; if her kids interrupt your interview, that's a GOOD thing...and how the provider responds to such interruptions is equally important.

Look for spontaneous touching between the provider and her DC kids--in both directions. I'm not talking about "show" affection; I mean the kinds of hand on the shoulder in passing, or sidling up the provider and holding onto her leg touching that we do around those to whom we are close.

The provider can "show" for you, but her kids will not. Their behaviors are more likely to reflect accurately the relationship between the provider and the kids.

Avatar for mygriffin
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Registered: 03-28-2003
Tue, 08-19-2003 - 10:38am
I'm sure this situation is not "typical," but I just don't get it.

This is the part that scares me:

The general counsel for the Office of Child Care Services says "that most unlicensed home day-care providers need guidance, not punishment."

Um, looks like that's not working by this example.


Um, if you don't understand the process, you shouldn't be providing care for others. And if you don't know the difference between babysitting for relatives and operating a day care, something is seriously wrong. The second my mom invited children who are NOT her relatives into the house and accepted MONEY for their care, she'd be crossing the line.

As for the difference a license would have made, I'd also like to know.

As for the woman who spent 20 minutes there in the AM and 20 in the PM and said she never heard the woman yell at the kids. Well, DUH!

Avatar for mygriffin
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Registered: 03-28-2003
Tue, 08-19-2003 - 10:42am
Very good tips. nt
iVillage Member
Registered: 03-27-2003
Tue, 08-19-2003 - 10:59am
Indiana has a wealth of info available on-line. You can search for licensed providers by zip code. You can also review the most recent inspection reports for dc centers. I think that inspection reports will be available for in-home providers as well at some point in the future, although unfortunately I believe their inspections are less extensive and also less frequent, so that info won't be as valuable.

I also like your tip about talking to the provider's neighbors. I never thought of that.

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-26-2003
Tue, 08-19-2003 - 11:07am
Not to condone this woman's actions, or belittle the grief of the family .. but this was not murder. Negligent homicide? maybe. Manslaughter? maybe. But it was not, legally, murder. Murder must involve intent and this woman (most likely, i'm not intimate with the story) did not *intend* to do the child harm.

So, yes, she must be punished. I don't know if 8 years is a reasonable sentence, but life in prison is not. Bad as it was, she made a mistake. But she did not, legally, commit murder.


Unless there's a lot more to the story that you didn't tell us (very possible), she isn't sick and she didn't murder. She did what many mothers do; medicate their children either for real medical reasons, or becaue Benadryl does help many children sleep. Unfortunately, she did it in a very irresponsible way that resulted in the death of a child.


iVillage Member
Registered: 03-27-2003
Tue, 08-19-2003 - 11:10am
I think up here a provider does NOT have to have a license if they are caring for less than 6 children. We had a child killed by a provider a couple years ago-it was actually a foster child (and I would have thought foster parents would have some sort of requirement about what kind of care they are allowed to put the child in..) and it turned out the provider was an alcoholic who was in the midst of a bad morning hangover and the child (18mo) was crying just a bit too much for her taste.

I dont think there *are* enough questions that I could ask that would make me 100 percent comfortable. Having been subjected to this stuff myself as a child, I think it happens far more often than parents could ever know. You just dont know what goes on behind closed doors, and there isnt any way to really find out.

Needless to say, it just was not a risk I was willing to take.



"Now when I need help, I look in the mirror" ~Kanye West~

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-26-2003
Tue, 08-19-2003 - 11:13am
Oklahoma has a ratings system, in addition to the licensing requirements.

For FAMILY providers

--"One Star Family Child Care Home" operates under a state license.

-- "One Star Plus Family Child Care Home" operates in compliance with licensing requirements, has obtained additional training and reads to children daily; after 12 months, it offers five methods of parent involvement and is assessed using the Family Day Care Rating Scale.

-- "Two Star Home" is accredited through the National Association of Family Child Care and is in compliance with licensing requirements; or meets all One Star Plus criteria and the criteria for home provider qualifications.

-- "Three Star Home" meets all two star criteria and is accredited through the National Association of Family Child Care.


--"One Star Child Care Center" operates under a state license.

--"One Star Plus Child Care Center" operates in compliance with licensing requirements, the director obtains additional training, there are weekly lesson plans and interest centers, and teachers read to children daily; after 12 months, teachers obtain additional training, the center implements a salary scale with increments based on level of education, credential, training and years of experience, and the center offers seven methods of parent involvement and is assessed using the Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale.

--"Two Star Center" operates in compliance with appropriate licensing requirements and is accredited through an approved national accrediting organization; or meets all One Star Plus Criteria and the criteria for master teacher responsibilities and qualifications.

--"Three Star Center" meets all two star center criteria and is accredited through an approved national accrediting organization.

When I looked for my kids' new providers, I looked ONLY at 2-star centers (there are no 3stars in my area). And I visited each one, unannounced. that's my biggest tool right there. One center *appeared* better, but I got no warm fuzzies at all from the staff, parents or the center. The center I chose isn't fancy, but *felt* right.

Another tip is ... always be ready to walk. If *anything* happens that makes you feel uncomfortable and it isn't resolved immediately, or has a possiblity of happening again, be ready to walk. And find a new center. Having that mindset keeps me on my toes.


Edited 8/19/2003 11:17:27 AM ET by savcal

Edited 8/19/2003 11:18:10 AM ET by savcal

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-25-2003
Tue, 08-19-2003 - 11:45am
To answer your questions as an unlicensed provider....there really is no answer. Could this happen to a licensed provider as easily as a unlicensed one? I remember many posters response to the licenced center that the child was left in after closing. I also remember many posters responses to the mother who left her infant in the car all day because she wasn't used to taking him/her to dc and how the dc was blamed because they didn't try hard enough to call the mother.

I am not trying to de-value what happened to that poor baby....all I am saying is good people do bad things and bad things happen to good people. The mother down the road could snap just as easily as a provider (in any setting--regulated or not) down the road.

With regards to finding out how your children are really be cared for once they leave your eyesight. Really...gut instinct is all you can go by and talking to those parents in the same program who have children that talk. If you ask "do you watch alot of tv?" and the provider says "no"....then the only option you have is to believe the provider until you can talk to someone else or stop by unannounced.

WRT to unlicensed in PA we are called relative care providers...we are allowed by law to care for 3 children plus our own. There are regulations re: the ages of the children. If a person choses to go with an UL provider....a parent should ask if they are taking courses through their state program (we receive certificates for each course we complete). We also have access to all the materials that the state provides for the regulated in-home providers and can receive home visits as well (when they do them....our grant locally is up for the moment and are awaiting more money to come in) as well as theme kits, newsletters, etc. No, you cannot call a phone number and get referred to us, as that is only for regulated providers. But you can speak with parents in our program, speak with us...ask to see those certificates, etc.

Our state does not like to fine providers for having too many children then they are allowed. They like to help the providers bring themselves back into regulation. They are also making a more concerted effort to work with us RCP's because there are so many of us. Our state is at an all time low for in-home providers and centers. Especially my area....that state understands that and wants to help us AND the parents for the saftey of the children. W/out providers in one form or another....parents will have a very hard time working as not everyone has access to family members.

Do I think the fine is low? It depends. If over-allowance was a first time offense...I would probably think a fine is not even necessary. Just some help with getting the provider back into regulation and/or working with them to get licensed so they CAN take the extra child. For this woman in particular? Yes, I think the county/state should have done MORE to insure that she kept within her limit or closing her down. Unfortunatly, that didn't happen. Why did she have so many kids and why did she keep doing what she was doing? I really don't know. I can say I have been tempted a couple of times to take over my limit because of close family or friends needing help. One of our big in-home providers just closed down recently and the phones call are coming in for a provider. We have only 1 larger group in-home and two centers left with maybe 4 or 5 regulated 6 kids and under family cares left. Some of us feel for the parents and wish we could help them by taking their children so they can continueing working.

That could be the case with this lady, but I really don't know. You can find out if a provider has anything against them by calling the court-house (we call it the extension office) or the phone number that provides lists for state-regulated providers.

Sorry this is so long.