TULSA — The state Department of Human Services needs to do more to protect children in day care, a state House committee was told Thursday during a hearing that often drew tears and disagreement.
Legislators were told emergency orders to shut down operations should be done faster, that the DHS should conduct annual checks of day care providers' driving records, licenses and insurance verification, and that day care records should be posted online and at the day care. The DHS also was criticized by a relative of a 2-year-old boy who died in Tulsa. Rep. Ron Peters, R-Tulsa, chairman of the House Human Services Committee, called for an interim study after the death of 2-year-old Joshua Minton. Joshua died in a hospital after being found with his mouth taped and his hands bound at a Tulsa day care. Vicki Chiles, the day care's owner, told police she taped Joshua because he would not be quiet during nap time. She is charged with first-degree murder. "Children are our future. If they are not top priority, then neither is our future,” Joshua's great-aunt Atonda Minton told the committee. "Right now, we are in charge of their day care. Someday they are going to be in charge of our nursing home.” Joshua's family and others were upset that Chiles was able to operate even after she admitted striking a special needs child in April. She was charged with felony abuse of a minor child on May 16. The next day, DHS staffers came to ask Chiles to voluntarily close her business but when they arrived, Joshua was already dying. The next day after that visit, DHS officials served Chiles in the Tulsa County jail with an emergency order to shut down. "I think it's appalling that it takes that long,” Atonda Minton said. "My nephew would be alive today if somebody had done something when that woman admitted the abuse on April 10.”
State reportThe committee also was given a report by the Oklahoma Commission on Children and Youth, the state agency that oversees the DHS. The report states Chiles was first found noncompliant on Aug. 29, 2003, because she did not have enough caregivers and her home was not free of hazards. Janice Hendryx, the Commission on Children and Youth's director, said the study was conducted because of Joshua's death, but its findings could apply to many cases.
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AT A GLANCEThe Department of Human Services approved emergency rules on July 24. Once Gov. Brad Henry approves them, they will go into effect Oct. 1. Those include: •A requirement for DHS to decide in one business day whether to close a day care if a licensing specialist or supervisor recommends an emergency order. •A requirement for day care owners to post summaries of DHS investigations confirming abuse or neglect in clear view of their main entrances for 120 days. •A requirement for day care owners to provide files to parents on DHS inspections within 120 days from the time the files are requested. Next: Henry should approve the rules, a spokesman said Thursday.