Many day care records that have been tucked away in filing cabinets are now on the Internet for everyone to see. The state Department of Human Services on Tuesday put online thousands of compliance records concerning day care homes and centers, giving parents better access to information without the need to drive to a local DHS office. The Web site does not go into specifics of violations recorded during DHS inspector visits or into specifics of any abuse or neglect allegations. It does note the number of violations found in various categories. Parents can call or visit a DHS office to learn specifics. Also, beginning Oct. 1, day care centers will be required to make accessible to parents files including some of the information. The move comes after 2-year-old Joshua Minton's death at a home day care in Tulsa. Day care owner Vicki Chiles has been charged with murder. Chiles' home was cited for numerous violations that went unnoticed by Joshua's family. "In response to that tragedy, we've been working very hard to make it available and provide another avenue for parents to get that information,” DHS spokeswoman Mary Leaver said.
Worrying parentsSome parents have complained to DHS they did not know records were available. Posting on the Internet was the logical next step because parents already are using computers to access other kinds of information, Leaver said. The site shows the number of noncompliance episodes in various categories, and dates and reasons for visits. Parents can click on each category and see a list of violations possible under that category. Privacy issues prevented posting some information online, including child welfare information or addresses of home day cares, which are listed under the owner's name, Leaver said. "It's a way to provide as much information as we can but not unnecessarily worry parents,” she said. The site was proposed a few years ago and scheduled to be available by the end of the year, but was pushed up because of Joshua's death. Because of the number of compliance categories, DHS did not make all categories available online. However, 27 categories are available, including fire safety, health and hazard sections. Parents without Internet access can go to the day care and look at the most recent monitoring report, showing problems and how they were addressed. They also can make an appointment with a local DHS office to see the entire file.
A gray areaRick Kerr, who owns six day care centers in the Lawton area, said he thinks parents won't understand what the violations mean. His five centers that are open — one is closed for remodeling — have only six noncompliance incidents since Jan. 30. "I think it's a good start, but I think it has some gray,” he said. He said parents need to understand children will get themselves hurt, and they should become concerned if a provider shows a habit of making mistakes. Kerr said he and others would prefer minor violations that occur only once not be reported online. Repeated violations should be reported, he said. "There's got to be a magic number,” he said.
WHERE TO GOParents can go to www.okdhs.org and then click on "Child Care Locator” to access day care records.
Getting information on your child's provider•Beginning Oct. 1, all day care facilities must post a notice that the most recent monitoring report is there. Also available at each day care will be summaries of completed investigations from the past 120 days and criminal waivers. A waiver is considered when a person with a record wants to work at a day care. A waiver could be given after DHS staffers take into consideration how old the conviction is and what progress the person has made. •DHS officials said they used a careful process to determine the right amount of information to provide online. Because of the massive documentation contained in child care files, the DHS did not want to overwhelm parents with information or unnecessarily alarm them. •The new Web site is intended to be a general overview so parents can decide whether they need more information about their provider. It's not a comprehensive source of information. •Entire files are also available at local DHS offices. Source: The state Department of Human Services