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Sunday Mornings with Rania: Keeping Our Kids Safe at Daycares and Youth Camps

If you’re busy, it’s hard to go to the gym. If you’re a parent of young children, it’s almost impossible. Gym owners know this and in an effort to leave you with no excuses, many have added childcare services to their establishments.

It seems like a slam-dunk win-win. While you go work on your body, you leave your heart, your children, just a few feet away assured that they will play, have fun and be ready for you to come get them when you’re done. Never, ever, would you imagine that those minutes or hours would be filled with tears, strikes or fear for your little ones.

Never until this past week.

I was busy in meetings when Roula Christie (an incredible mother, person, wife, and famous voice of KRBE’s Roula & Ryan Show) started texting me. She, as a parent but also as a human being, was mortified at video footage circulating that showed employees of a child-care facility at a gym in Richmond, TX striking a toddler.

Roula wasn’t alone; many parents across the city started posting and asking; how on earth could this be happening?

Well, this is how: childcare facilities where parents are on the premises (like a gym) are exempt from regulations that require fingerprinting and complete background checks of staff. In plain English, not everyone hired to watch your child is held to the legal standards and requirements of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.

So this had me ask: what other facilities fall within these exemptions and as parents, are you aware?

  • Any facility where the care for children is offered as a “special service” by a business during an activity while the parents are at or on the premise. Example: Fitness Center. In these cases, if you have a problem, you must report it to your local law enforcement agency.
  • Educational Programs or Operations like Before or After School Programs operated by an accredited school or contracted within the school or Educational Programs (preschool through sixth grade) that contract within public or private accredited schools but who do not provide custodial care for more than one hour during the hours before or after the customary school day. If a problem arises, you must report to your local law enforcement agency.
  • Youth Camps that are open within a set timeframe (i.e., a summer sports camp or a nature camp). For abuse and neglect concerns click here: Reporting Waste, Abuse and Fraud (link is external). To report any other concerns regarding youth day camp operations, go to the Youth Camp Program of the Department of State Health Services (DSHS (link is external)). Phone number: 1-888-973-0022.

As parents, we don’t want to be paranoid but we sadly cannot expect others to invest in the quality of care we want and expect for our children. Here’s what we recommend:

Knowing that the state cannot regulate these facilities, check with the company who hires these employees to see what their internal guidelines and restrictions are in terms of keeping children safe, including:

  • How many children are there to staff members?
  • What are the rules on personal toys, food, etc.?
  • How do they manage behavior?
  • What type of training does the staff have to ensure the safety and security of the children they oversee is perfectly maintained?
  • How do they contact you in case of an emergency?
  • How does management monitor the staff?
  • Are there cameras?
  • How many years has the staff been working with children? What is the turn-over rate?

And then talk to your children.

The point being, ask, ask, ask and ask again. We can’t be afraid to leave our children but my goodness, one look at that video and you instinctually want to do whatever you can to not just protect your own children but any child left in a child-care facility.

Education is the key. Using your voice is second. In the case at hand, the staffers were fired and an investigation is pending. More than anything else, the company in question will hopefully do whatever they can to make sure this never happens again. For children everywhere, we hope not.

Posted by Rania Mankarious on 17 Apr 2016

About the author

Executive Director of Crime Stoppers of Houston