UPDATE: Ellen Reynolds, Interim Executive Director of GCCA, spoke with Channel 2 Action News’ Nicole Carr this evening regarding unlicensed child care programs. Click here to see what GCCA has to say regarding this important topic.
With the recent tragedy occurring at Camp Cricket Summer Day Camp at Cochran Mill Park – an unlicensed summer camp in South Fulton County – as a caregiver, how do you know if the program you’re entrusting with the care of your child is licensed by the State of Georgia? How can you be certain there is state oversight when it comes to a child care provider? Choosing a child care program is one of the most important decisions a caregiver has to make, and sometimes, it can be an overwhelming one. Ultimately, caregivers should visit ANY program/center they are considering in order to observe how the program is managed, how staff interact with children, and to ask important questions – like whether or not the program is licensed. Additional questions posted on The Atlanta Constitutional Journal’s website are :
1. Is the camp licensed by the Department of Early Care and Learning (DECAL)? If so, the program is required to adhere to all state regulations for health, safety, supervisions, physical space and much more. You can also look up their inspection reports on DECAL’s website. Click here to access these reports.
2. If not, find out if they filed for an “exemption from licensing.” They must inform parents about their exemption and are supposed to display a sign around the front of the building or desk.
3. What is the camper-to-teacher ratio for the majority of the day?
4. How do they handle supervision of children and discipline issues?
5. What age groups will be combined together? (If you have a younger child, you may not want them mixed with older children.)
6. What is the schedule for the program, what will they be doing each day? Review how much is downtime versus planned activities.
7. Ask the qualifications of the teacher, including age, training and years working with children. Especially ask who has First Aid and CPR training.
8. Does all staff have satisfactory and up-to-date criminal background checks?
9. What is the policy for handling injuries and illness?
10. What does the physical space and outside play area look like? Can children wander away or can outsiders reach them? Are there fences, locks or other precautions?
11. Do the campers go swimming or near water? Do they take swim proficiency tests? Is there a lifeguard on duty? What are the ratios for supervision in water?
12. What insurance does the program carry? Do they have liability insurance?
As law enforcement and other officials continue their investigation, many parents and caregivers are understanding the important of child care center/program licensing. To see if your child’s program is licensed, visit DECAL’s website use the “Find Child Care Provider” search tool. You can access this tool by clicking here.