HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Federal inspectors conducted surprise visits to Pennsylvania child care centers and discovered safety hazards and a systematic problem with state inspections.
Exposed electrical sockets, jagged fences, poisonous chemicals, and a bathroom covered in filth and grime were just some of the things the inspectors reported they found late last year.
According to a report by the Office of the Inspector General, day care facilities in Harrisburg, Bethlehem and Philadelphia were reviewed as part of a larger safety check-up.
Angela Diaz, a mom who uses day care, saw the photos firsthand.
“Shocking,” she said. “A school should be a little bit better than that.”
The most egregious part of the review is that state inspectors signed off and approved the facilities weeks or months earlier. There was one inspector for every 143 facilities. The lapse in oversight prompted federal agencies to issue a stern warning to the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services.
Secretary Ted Dallas spoke with ABC 27 on Tuesday about the report.
“Obviously, it’s not what we want to see,” he said.
The day care centers were not named in the federal report, but Dallas said they were one- and no-star rated centers. Pennsylvania ranks child care facilities from one to four stars, four being the highest rated.
A state audit of the 2,500 day care facilities in Pennsylvania was conducted through June 2015. In Dauphin County, 213 centers were examined. Only 27 were given either a four- or three-star rating. Dallas suggests parents should send their children to those centers.
Of the remaining 186 centers, 111 were rated ‘no stars’ and three of those received sanctions of some kind.
“Well, they need to go back and do their job correctly,” Diaz said.
Dallas said while the report is troubling, it does highlight the need for system-wide quality. As a result, the agency will hire at least 40 more inspectors, provide workers with digital reporting equipment, and conduct more unscheduled visits to make sure care facilities comply with state regulations.
“We must focus on insuring safety,” he said, “and also making sure there are enough folks to carry out inspections that are required.”
Dallas said parents must help to keep day care centers in check. He said if something doesn’t seem right, it should be reported to authorities.
Diaz said she always asks tough questions and takes a tour before she leaves her children.
“Get together, get out your paper from the day care to see if they get that fixed,” she said. “We don’t need the kids to get any lead or anything.”