7 On Your Side: Daycare Dangers, Part 2

Last week we met Breeana Cantu, mother of 19-month-old Elijah.  She discovered the state website after the accident at her son's daycare in Tyler that left his eye bloodied, bruised and swollen.

"You have a lot of anxiety dropping off your kid off at a daycare know that they're going to take care of your babies," says Breeana.

The website is www.txchildcaresearch.org. That's where you can find a daycare's inspection history and review results of reports filed against them.

State licensing inspector Carrol Kimberley explains. "We try to give a visual of what we're actually seeing when we're there.  Or if the [daycare] has an accident that requires medical treatment of a child, they are required to call us and let us know about it and then we go out and investigate that to make sure everything is being done to lower the risk of a child."

Here are just some violations we found from 2006 and 2007 inspections:

Kisha's Learning Academy #2 in Tyler was cited for having knives in kitchen drawers that were accessible to children.

The daycare says the inspection was done before the center opened and the knives were moved.

There were citations for harsh punishment:

July 2007, a staffer at Child Development and Treatment Center was observed hitting several children with a ruler and/or drumstick. That staffer resigned.

Three staffers at Angela's Little Angels hit a child on the hands and bottoms as a form of discipline. The daycare says they had permission to punish the child, but it still violates state rules.

Kimberley adds, "Children cannot be physically hit, spanked, ridiculed, humiliated. It all has to be positive."

A Gresham Heights caregiver was terminated, after she bit a child as discipline because he bit another child.

Also at Gresham Heights, the inspector observed seven 3-year-olds being taken on a field trip in a 15-passenger van.  None of them was put in child seats.

One child was also injured there after the state noted a staffer left the room of children unsupervised.

Accidents do happen, but the state says most can be avoided with good supervision.

"I was in a center one day and the child was pulling up on the back of the rocking chair," says Kimberley.  "And I was standing there, I was there doing an investigation and the rocking chair kept moving back and the child fell and his head on a ledge. And I cited the teacher because she didn't move the chair.  You know that could have been prevented."

Another daycare especially caught our attention.  This registered child care home run by Sue Odneal in Tyler.

Inspections there date back to 2005.  That's when the state noted the home was infested with lice and maggots, the cat litter boxes were full and foul smelling, and the carpet filthy.

In April of this year the insect problem was again noted.  The inspector observed "a massive amount of small insects on the back wall of the house, back door and back window."

Also, three dogs and one cat were not current on their vaccinations.  The inspector further noted the home had a strong odor of animal feces and urine.

We visited the daycare where Ms. Odneal allowed our cameras inside but declined an interview on-camera.  She says no children were in her care when the state found the lice and maggots at her home and it was cleaned up right away.

We did notice the unpleasant animal odor was still prevalent.  As far as her pets' vaccinations, their records claim to be updated according a handwritten note taped on the wall.

"Our goal is to work with them. To help them understand this is unhealthy.  And the dogs have to go.  [Ms. Odneal] was breeding dogs and taking care of babies," says Kimberley.

One daycare that proves things can be turned around is Tyler Christian Preschool.

Their list of violations included a soiled diaper found in the freezer, a bottle of Clorox bleach was accessible to children, a child was strapped in a feeding seat for discipline and the daycare  failed to fix a leaky roof that had been cited eight times in the past.

This summer the facility was put on probation and a new director, Tara Walker, had to be hired.

"We started a more thorough training program.   We made sure every staff was oriented to the standards. They have to read all the standards so they know what their responsibilities are," Walker explains.

Within six weeks of Walker taking over the daycare was taken off probation. And the last three state inspections have all come back with no violations.

"[The state] is not out to get you, they're out to help you," says Walker.

Kimberley adds, "We need parents helping us.  We need parents to call and talk to the director and raise the quality in their facility if they don't like it. They are the voice for the children."

The state says a parent should also be the child's best advocate. Using this website is a start to helping parents be just that.

Other citations we found worth noting: Multiple Tyler daycares had staffers with no training in Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), shaken baby or CPR and first aid.

Also, several had at least one or more staffers working at the daycare without having a state-required background check.

When a daycare is cited, the state usually gives them a certain amount of time to fix the problem. The state will typically try to work with a daycare for compliance, but it also has the power to shutdown a daycare if it leads to that.

Again, the web address is www.txchildcaresearch.org.  All the information you can find on your daycare is public record and it does not cost you anything to review any data.

The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services also has a "Don't Be In the Dark About Child Care" campaign, urging parents to choose child care wisely.  The public will find useful information and materials at www.dontbeinthedark.org.

Christine Nelson reporting. cnelson@kltv.com