The tragic and unnecessary death of four-year-old Jordan Coleman should wake us up at night. According to the news reports, Jordan was left in a van on a hot August afternoon by daycare facility “staff” attempting to avoid violations for over-crowding.
The Jeremy Fiedelholtz Safe Day Care Act, or “Jeremy’s Law,” criminalized lying to parents about facility qualifications, over-crowding and staffing. For Jordan’s family, maybe there will be a prosecution under Jeremy’s law.
All inspection reports by Broward County, on behalf of Florida’s Department of Children and Families, are available on-line. Those violations which result in disciplinary action must be posted conspicuously in the facility, along with the plan for corrective action.
However, knowledge of all violations is important for parents, not just those that result in disciplinary action. It has been reported that Jordan’s daycare center was cited by state inspectors for 42 violations in four years, all of which would have been online. The operator also ran, it has been reported, a New York child care facility with an equally impressive record of 25 violations since November 2010.
Posting some violations in the facility isn’t the most effective means to protect children. In addition, some families do not have the technology, skill or endurance to keep checking a website to find inspection reports warning of dangers lurking at the facility.
We need to amend Florida law:
• Require mandatory disclosure of all inspection reports directly to parents. Once any inspection report is done, the daycare facility should be obligated to provide a physical copy of the report directly to every parent with a compliance plan.
• Failing to provide a parent a physical copy should be a violation and the operators should be punished in the spirit of “Jeremy’s Law.”
• Require inspection reports over the previous 24 months be included in the state-mandated brochure given to new parents.
• Require disclosures of violations from other facilities operated by the same operator, no matter where those other facilities are located. Without this requirement, how would any parent have known the operator was operating elsewhere with such a dismal record?
It will be painful or embarrassing for some operators to hand out those disclosures. It should be. If painful enough, maybe they will comply instead of endangering our children.
Jordan and Jeremy are now bound together in a common fate. Can they help the next family? Can we?
Michael J. Ryan, mayor, Sunrise