Questions for our daycare experts
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|Tue, 08-19-2003 - 8:09am|
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."