Young Children in Virginia Get Injured Too Often at Day Care

"Virginia's score in a nationwide report on state laws regulating child care providers is a D-, and that's enough to rank it 14th in the country."

My breath stopped when I read that first paragraph of an April 5, 2011, Virginian-Pilot report on an analysis of the quality and safety of day care and after-school programs in the United States. My shock was only partly due to the poor performance of Commonwealth caregivers and regulators. Even more disturbing was the realization that babies, infants, toddlers and preschool students in 26 states -- more than half --  receive paid care from adults that, considered objectively, utterly fails to keep them safe, educated and fed.

The National Association of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies, which goes by the unwieldy initialism NACCRRA, released its most-recent annual grades this month. The organization also rated North Carolina's (NC) child care with a low D and noted that the "average score in 2011 was 87 out of a possible 150 points (compared to 70 in 2007 and 83 in 2009). Using a standard grading scale, no state earned an A."

Forty-one percent of identified day care and after-school care providers in Virginia (VA) do not hold licenses issued by the state's Department of Social Services. This means 4 in 10 child care providers are not subject to regular inspections of their facilities -- often private homes -- or of the work they do with kids. Centers affiliated with churches and faith groups, in particular, are not required to apply for or obtain licenses from the state.

In January 2011, a 7-week-old died at the Bethel Temple Church of Deliverance-affiliated Little Eagles Day Care in Norfolk, Virginia. More recently, a babysitter in Newport News who took infants into her home while the kids' parents were at work was charged with felony charges of child endangerment and allowing a child's death after an 8-month-old died from brain injuries suffered at the caregiver's house.

NACCRRA titled its 2011 report We Can Do Better, bolding and underlining the "can" and setting it in all capital letters on the report's cover. As an attorney specializing in representing victims of injuries caused by other people's negligence and carelessness and a parent of three thankfully healthy kids, I'll go further to state that we MUST do better. Young children depend on parents, teachers and all other adults to ensure their health and well-being. We simply cannot be failing the most vulnerable members of society.


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