The 19 La Petite centers were cited for 152 violations during their most recent three inspections, while the one-star centers were cited for just 67.
The La Petite centers also had more complaints (49) and substantiated complaints (11) over the past two years than the lower-rated comparison group, which had 35 complaints, seven of which were ruled substantiated.
"Can I tell you why a one-star might have less complaints? I do not have the answer to that. I do not know why,” Matthews said.
Licensing requirements are directed primarily at protecting the health and safety of children.
Jennifer Towell, program manager of the DHS unit that oversees the Stars program, said compliance with licensing requirements is just one factor that goes into a stars rating. To receive a three-star rating, a center must meet extra education, training, learning environment, parental involvement and program requirements and be nationally accredited, she said.
Matthews said star ratings should not be the only criteria parents consider when choosing a child care center. DHS monitoring reports also are available at the child care centers, along with the findings of completed investigations into complaints, she said.
Parents wanting to select quality child care centers should look at the entire file, not just a center’s star rating, Towell said.
Kathy Cronemiller, president of the Oklahoma Child Care Association, said her experience with DHS is the agency won’t shy away from lowering a center’s star rating or closing it down if it determines that needs to be done, but the agency will first give a center an opportunity to correct problems.
Cronemiller said she can’t explain La Petite’s problems, but knows it is a big corporation and feels confident the company will "send in all kinds of people” to make sure problems are resolved.
Cronemiller said that lowering a center’s star rating can lead to closure.
Ongoing Coverage: Watchdog