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200 Oklahoma day cares may face closure

BY WENDY K. KLEINMAN Published: November 1, 2008
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An estimated 200 unlicensed Oklahoma child care sites can be shut down by emergency order beginning today as a new law goes into effect. Unlicensed operators also could be fined $100 to $500 each day they refuse to close.

"I think part of the attractiveness of unlicensed care is that in some people’s eyes it’s more affordable — it’s cheaper — but you are taking a risk,” state Department of Human Services spokeswoman Mary Leaver said. The law cannot be applied retroactively, so the unlicensed places will only face closure if they are reported again.

The only authority the department has over unlicensed sites reported before today is to encourage them to become licensed. The licensing process takes a few months on average, though child care centers can operate with a temporary permit while the process is finalized, Leaver said.

Leaver urges parents to find one of the state’s 5,500 licensed care centers and homes. Once a closure order is issued, staff members will call parents to immediately pick up their children. That could leave parents in a bind as they search for a new caregiver, she said.

Another part of the law is intended to make it easier for parents to complete such a search by looking up compliance and complaint records online at http://204.87.68.21/childcarefind. Rep. Ron Peters, R-Tulsa, pushed for the database because parents previously had to make an appointment to look at such records.

Look up child care compliance and complaint records Listen to spokeswoman Mary Leaver and Rep. Ron Peters...

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BACKGROUND

Child’s death sparked bill

House Bill 2643 was in response to the May 2007 death of 2-year-old Joshua Minton, shown right, whose Tulsa caregiver, Vicki Chiles, was convicted of first-degree murder for his death. A state Department of Human Services licensing employee had sought unsuccessfully to close her day care a year earlier.

Liability insurance

Licensed child care centers and homes are being asked to obtain $200,000 in liability insurance beginning today under House Bill 2863. Locations that cannot get it for financial or other reasons must notify parents of that fact, DHS spokeswoman Mary Leaver said. Sites that still do not have liability insurance after a year must renew that notice and have parents sign that they received it, she said. Many child care locations are not carrying that coverage now, Leaver said, and many are not expected to be able to.

ONLINE

"�Go to NewsOK.com and look for "Today’s Paper” for more coverage on this topic:

Database

Look up child care compliance and complaint records. Audio

Listen to spokeswoman Mary Leaver and Rep. Ron Peters talking more about the new laws.

Documents

View the laws that go into effect today regarding child care centers and read an explanation of the child care licensing process.

www.newsok.com


LAW TAKES EFFECT TODAY

Other House Bill 2643 provisions that affect the Department of Human Services beginning today:

→Requiring a records search of the Oklahoma State Courts Network for operators, employees and live-in adults at child care locations.

→Performing equivalent background checks in other states for those who have lived in Oklahoma less than three years.

→Disallowing children to be left alone with anyone under age 18.

→Issuing rules regarding electronic submission of certain documents.

Another part of the bill requires DHS to establish an online registry of child care workers, but that part does not take effect until 2010.

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