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Health officials tell parents to review reports and visit daycares before enrollment

TUCSON – State health officials say parents should check public inspection reports and visit facilities before enrolling their children in daycare.

Generally, if a person is paid to care for 4 or more children, they need a license from the Arizona Department of Health Services. That license comes with at least one surprise inspection every year.

News 4 Tucson looked at the facilities with the biggest fines in 2018.

El Presidio Day School was penalized $1,800 after a child admitted smoking marijuana at the facility, and “over capacity has been cited during multiple inspections,” according to the ADHS survey.

The Director of School Operations Kelli McCalley stated, in part, in an email, “the licensing violations reported are not a reflection of the nurturing environment we provide to children every day. As soon as we were aware we worked with agencies and made significant changes to our center management team.”

Mini-Skool Early Learning Centers on Craycroft Road was fined $700 after a staff member told an inspector about another staff member. The staff member said a coworker “expects 1-year-olds to do pre-K things that are not developmentally appropriate,” and she is “physically aggressive with the children,” according to the inspection report.

After a phone call and in-person visit from News 4 Tucson, the facility did not respond to requests for comment on the inspection.

A Neighborhood Early Learning Center was fined $400 after a surveyor found “plastic grocery bags on the floor accessible to enrolled children. The plastic bags are labeled ‘keep away from babies and children.'”

After a phone call and in-person visit from News 4 Tucson, the facility did not respond to requests for comment on the inspection.

Colby Bower is an assistant director of ADHS. He said parents should not necessarily be worried about citations, but when the citations escalate to fines, they are serious.

“A fine is a good indicator that there have been repeat deficiencies,” Bower said, “and those deficiencies, we believe, could cause harm or have caused harm to children.”

He recommends parents search AZCareCheck.com before hiring a facility, but he said that is not as important as a visit.

“If you go to the facility, and you announce that you just want to take a look around,” Bower said, “and can they show the program, and they’re hesitant about that, that’s probably a red flag. The good operators, those good facilities will more than welcome you in, allow you to look around.”

The state has a checklist parents can use when evaluating providers.

El Presidio’s entire email stated:

“At El Presidio the health and safety of every child at our school is our first and foremost concern.  We take being a child’s advocate and voice very seriously and follow a very specific protocol anytime a concern is raised.  In 2018 the licensing violations reported are not a reflection of the nurturing environment we provide to children every day. As soon as we were aware we worked with agencies and made significant changes to our center management team.  We continue to retrain our staff and will continue to do so, not just per licensing’s requirements, but because we know it is the right thing to do.  The changes we have made had a significant impact on the quality of care at the center as it has been recently awarded a Three-Star through Quality First and  National Accreditation”.

Sam Salzwedel

Sam Salzwedel is an investigative reporter at News 4 Tucson – KVOA.

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