June 29, 2012
At a news conference this morning at the Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning (DECAL), Commissioner Bobby Cagle announced immediate policy changes and increased enforcement actions for child care programs that improperly transport children, placing them in danger. Despite recent efforts to revise and strengthen transportation rules and educate providers, Cagle said his department continues to receive and investigate cases where children are left unattended in child care vans and buses. Cagle said since July, 2011, his department has investigated 21 incidents where children were inadvertently left in child care vehicles. These were children, ages 3-8, left in a vehicle without anyone’s knowledge for ten-minutes to five-hours.
“Since joining DECAL in January, 2011, I have made child health and safety a priority,” Cagle said. “We revised transportation rules in July, 2011, adding two mandatory physical inspections of the vehicle whenever children load or unload. We brought in nationally-recognized experts to thoroughly review our practices and procedures, established webinars on key safety issues and provided additional technical assistance to facilities.” Cagle said apparently that isn’t enough. “Problems persist and these incidents will not be tolerated.”
Effective today, Cagle said DECAL will impose the maximum fine allowed by law ($499) on the first violation of transportation rules in incidents where a child is not present. These fines will increase with any additional violations. In incidents where children are left unattended in vans or buses, Cagle said DECAL will use “everything in its power” including state monitors, restricting transportation by the center, revoking licenses or emergency closures.
“This is not a widespread problem in Georgia,” Cagle explained. “Only a very small percentage of the 6,300 licensed child care programs across the State have violated these rules. However, even one incident where a child is frightened, injured or worse is one too many. In addition to the department’s actions, I urge every parent to talk with their child care provider about this important issue and see what’s being done to protect their children and keep them safe.”
“In order for our youngest learners to have the most valuable educational experience, their safety must be a top priority,” Cagle added. “Our agency will not look the other way on violations that endanger our children.”
For more information on DECAL’s core rules for Child Care programs in Georgia, visit the agency’s Web site at www.decal.ga.gov.
About Bright from the Start
Bright from the Start: Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning is responsible for meeting the child care and early education needs of Georgia’s children and their families. It administers the nationally recognized Georgia’s Pre-K Program, licenses child care centers and home-based child care, administers federal nutrition programs, and manages voluntary quality enhancement programs.
The department also houses the Head Start State Collaboration Office, distributes federal funding to enhance the quality and availability of child care, and works collaboratively with Georgia child care resource and referral agencies and organizations throughout the state to enhance early care and education. For more information, go to www.decal.ga.gov.