The Investigators: The dark side of daycare, part 2

In this second half of a two-part special, CBS 19's Field Sutton and the Tyler Morning Telegraph's Kenneth Dean examine the records of East Texas daycares and explore why many of them find it difficult to do background checks as the state prescribes. Read part one here.

There are nearly 800 daycare centers in East Texas responsible for watching over thousands of children while their parents are at work. But how do you pick the right one and how do you make sure it's safe?

There are plenty of daycares that have no recorded history of abusing children. But the vast majority of the 800 daycares in East Texas have failed at least once when it comes to doing background checks on the people they leave alone with your children.

Daycares have to do background checks for everyone they hire and then re-check those people every two years. Depending on the position, it can be either a simple records based check or a more detailed FBI fingerprint check.

The Investigators went to Kidz Paradise in Tyler based on an especially high number of background check violations in state records. Unlike many other daycare owners, Kristain Tatum did not shy away from tough questions.

"We're constantly having to be here and having to work," she said.

Kidz Paradise is a nearly 24-hour operation for parents with abnormal schedules. Tatum admitted that the extended hours have taken a toll.

"We had to hire directors, and it didn't work out," she said. "Now I've stepped in and I'm my own director."

Tatum said the center has turned to a licensing representative for help in learning how to deal with the state's 2,500 individual regulations.

"We've come up with checklists to make sure that we are getting our FBI fingerprints done on time," she said.

Now major things like the center's required child-to-caregiver ratios are posted for everyone to see.

"Ratio and things like that, we've had a big issue with," Tatum said. "So now they're posted everywhere just to make sure we are staying in compliance."

State records show no instances of abuse--and no reports of injured children--since Kidz Paradise opened. Tatum said her record will continue to improve.

On the other end of the spectrum, the Family Learning Center of Tyler is one of just a few daycare operations with zero deficiencies. That means in the last two years--and through several state visits--inspectors couldn't any of the 2,500 policies that was being violated.

"We're trying really hard," Director Carrol McGlaun said. "I think that makes a big difference."

McGlaun showed us carefully laid out play areas.

"It kind of spreads [the children] out a little bit," she said.

McGlaun also Talked about the importance of age-appropriate activities which keep children and teachers on the right track.

"You have, I think, fewer citations because everyone is engaged in the children learning," McGlaun said.

McGlaun said even the best run daycare can put an amazing amount of stress on caregivers.

"It's stressful. It's a stressful job, but every teacher should know we all have that," she said. "A pediatrician taught me that. As a mother, she said 'I have a breaking point. I know when I need to walk out of the room."

But walking out requires a staffing level that keeps someone else in the room. McGlaun said rules like that make dealing with small problems is a lot easier with the right foundation.

So we asked her why so many daycares can't manage to just pony up the two dollars and make sure everyone in the building has a clean record.

"I can't tell you why they don't do it," McGlaun said. "It's a simple process, it's an online process. It's inexpensive."

"It is going to be cited a lot more because we look at that standard every single time we go into a center," Department of Family and Protective Services Spokesperson Shari Pulliam said. "We pull a personnel file. We make sure they are current."

Pulliam said heavy enforcement is supposed to cut down on violations.

"We want to make sure when a parent or a caregiver drops their child or their children off at a daycare center that their child is safe," Pulliam said. "That they're going to have a safe day, that they are going to have a good day."

Still, the investigators found most day cares in East Texas are unable to stay current on their background checks.

"Get to know the director. Get to know the teachers," McGlaun said. "You just can't be too cautious."

Click here to see how to search records for your day care.


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