State launches “Safe Child Care Task Force” to reform child care industry

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COLORADO SPRINGS — Colorado Department of Human Services (CDHS) is looking to improve the way the state handles child care providers, creating a task force to look at local and state regulations, as well as research best practices from other states.

“We have seen a pattern happening around our state where providers are caring for too many children,” Director of Early Childhood Development Mary Alice Cohen said.

The task force comes after a series of high-profile incidents at child care facilities, both licensed and not.

In 2019, a Colorado Springs daycare was shut down for having 20 kids more than what its license allowed.

In 2020, an infant died at an unlicensed facility in the Denver Metro area.

In February, an infant died under Dana McNair’s care, who was not licensed to run a daycare out of her home. McNair was arrested Monday, two weeks after the task force was announced.

“We’re hoping this team of experts from across the state can help us with one, how do we do surveillance and what is currently allowed,” said Cohen. “What can we do going forward to strengthen our ability to monitor.”

More authority in terms of enforcement is also a priority, Cohen said. She adds the group is looking at practices in Texas which scour the internet for postings and ads for unlicensed facilities.

In the case of the Colorado Springs daycare, there was a complaint filed and followed up on, but Cohen said CDHS’s role can be extremely limited in what they are allowed to do.

“We do not have the authority to go inside a house, we just have to observe from the outside,” Cohen said. “There are best practices happening in other states and we want to see what’s working well and what we can adopt here.”

Because of limits on the authority and number of licensee inspectors, Cohen said, parents and neighbors are often the only people tipping off CDHS to concerns of how child care providers operate.

CDHS also hopes better promotion of the tipline can help identify problems as well. Parents can report concerns by calling 844-447-4441.

For any parent looking for direction in finding care for their child, Cohen recommends coloradoshines.org, a database full of reviews of licensed child care providers that even includes questions to ask providers when visiting.

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