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Child care a shared concern PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 07 March 2018 12:50

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ROBERT PIERCE
• Leader & Times



EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the third in a series of stories recapping Wednesday’s joint meeting of the Seward County Commission, the Liberal City Commission, USD 480 Board of Education and the Seward County Community College Board of Trustees.

Today’s story will look at the state of Liberal’s daycare industry.

Future stories will look at an update on four-laning U.S. Highway 54, an update on the SCCC Champion Center and an update on the state of Liberal’s airport.

As a local childcare surveyor, Wanda Covert does inspections of all local daycare facilities and preschools.

Licensing of all daycares and preschools in Kansas come through the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. Covert said that authority was given to KDHE through licensing law passed in 1919.

“The department administers licensing law as a competitive program to assure that out of home care for the children will not exploited, unsafe and unhealthy,” she said. “The main purpose of the law is to protect the health and safety and welfare of the children receiving care away from their parents and their home. The law is also a consumer protection law assuring parents the care meets minimum standard.”

At last week’s joint meeting of the Seward County Commission, the Liberal City Commission, the USD 480 Board of Education and the Seward County Community College Board of Trustees, Covert looked at the different types of daycare facilities and some of the licensing laws concerning preschools and daycare, as well as the state of the industry in Seward County.

Covert first described the different types of daycare.

“The first daycare is just a regular home,” she said. “A regular home is licensed for 10 children, one person. The next is a group daycare, and it’s licensed for 10 children with two providers at home all the time. Past the 12, it goes into a center or a preschool. Once it goes over to a preschool or a center, that’s when there needing more education.”

Covert, though, said simply because a facility is licensed for that amount of children does not mean that many children are at that facility.

“It goes by the age group, so depending how many infants you have, it’s broken down into three categories from birth to 18 months, 18 months to five years and five years to 11 years,” she said. “The more infants you have, the less of the older age group you can have.”

This likewise means, Covert said, not every daycare is full.

“A lot of the providers don’t want to deal with all 10 kids,” she said. “They are very hard to handle. They can have five. They can have four. They can have whatever they think they can handle. It’s very, very limited to how many daycares are actually full to capacity.”

Covert then outlined the current number of daycares and preschools in Liberal.

“At the moment, we have five group daycares, 11 regular daycares, two centers and three preschools,” she said. “They do preschool in the morning, and they go to regular daycare in the afternoon.”

Covert then talked about Kismet, which she said formerly had three daycares, but now has none, meaning all Seward County daycares and preschools are located within the city limits of Liberal.

Covert said some daycares and preschools in Liberal are licensed for 60 children, but none of them have 60 at the same time.

“That includes Rainbow Room, Bright Start and the other KCSL (Kansas Children’s Service League), where they have half in the morning and half in the afternoon,” she said. “They have 17 kids in the morning and 17 kids in the afternoon.”

With the introduction of Lexi’s Law in 2012, Covert said significant changes were made to the daycare industry.

“Lexi’s Law made it a little bit harder for providers to be licensed,” she said. “Some of them were grandfathered in. The ones that already had a license and did not have a high school diploma were grandfathered in. After 2012, if you wanted a license, you had to have a high school diploma or a GED.”

Covert said she believes there is a shortage of daycares and preschools in Liberal. She said before a facility opens, though, KDHE officials need to see blueprints of the building where a facility would be located and blueprints of any additional construction that would take place on the building.

“If we have input, we can let them know you need an extra bathroom here,” she said. “The measurements on the building also determines how many kids you can have in the facility. You might have a large building, but your program director is only licensed for 24 kids. Right now, all the preschools that we have, they’re only licensed for 24. They’re not licensed for higher than that.”

In June 2017, KDHE likewise came up with more training for facilities to complete before operating a daycare or preschool.

“They’re called the Health and Safety trainings,” Covert said. “They have to be done by a KDHE-approved agency. That training is recognizing the signs of child abuse and child neglect to include prevention of shaken baby syndrome and abuse head trauma and reporting suspected child abuse and neglect.”

A second training involves basic child development, which encompasses many areas of concern, including supervision of children, safe sleep practice to include Infant Death Syndrome, prevention and control of infectious disease to include immunization and prevention and the response of emergency due to food and allergic reaction, building, the premises safety, including identification of the prevention of hazards that could cause bodily injury, including electrical shock, bodies of water or vehicular traffic. 

That training also includes emergency preparedness and response, planning of emergency resulting in natural disasters and human cost events, including violence in the facility, handling and storage of hazardous materials and the appropriate disposal of biocontaminants, including blood and other bodily fluids, and precaution of transporting children.

Covert said her inspections do not stop at what takes place at the daycare or preschool.

“When they do transport, I have to make sure they have a vehicle inspection also, they have a driver’s license, they have a first aid kit, they have child restrainers,” she said. “We don’t just check one thing and say, ‘Okay, you’re transporting, and that’s it.’”

Covert said she is often asked to recommend a facility to parents. While she cannot give them a specific name, she said she does refer them to Child Care Aware of Kansas, a referal and resource agency.

“They have all the providers,” she said. “They know how many children are in each facility. They know what hours they’re open. They know what age groups they have. The best thing is to call them, and they go ahead and give them that information.”

 

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About The High Plains Daily Leader

The High Plains Daily Leader and Southwest Daily Times are published Sunday through Friday and reaches homes throughout the Liberal, Kansas retail trade zone. The Leader & Times is the official newspaper of Seward County, USD No. 480, USD No. 483 and the cities of Liberal and Kismet.  The Leader & Times is a member of the Liberal Chamber of Commerce, the Kansas Press Association and the Associated Press.

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