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://220.127.116.11/childcarefind. Rep. Ron Peters, R-Tulsa, pushed for the database because parents previously had to make an appointment to look at such records.
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