Ryan: Toughen Daycare Center Law To Require More Disclosure To Parents

BY MICHAEL J. RYAN, MAYOR OF SUNRISE

At four-years-old, Jordan Coleman was old enough to know something wasn’t right, but not old enough to protect himself.

It was a hot August afternoon in Florida.  Maybe he was asleep when the “staff” of a Sunrise daycare center forgot him in the van.  If so, he likely woke sweaty and to a stifling, choking heat.  Alone.  No one else in the van.  Panic would have set in.

Jordan likely would have stopped sweating as the natural defenses meant to cool his body began to fail.  Hyperventilating, he would have progressed to confusion, and ultimately unconsciousness.

How long did it take? What were the final moments like before he slipped into unconsciousness?  As a loving son, did he cry out to his Mother?

The Spirit of “Jeremy’s Law” Should Have Protected Jordan

Born from the tragic death of Jeremy Fiedelholtz, who had been left to suffocate and die in an over-crowded facility, Florida law now imposes criminal penalties against operators who lie, misrepresent or omit information related to facility qualifications and capacity to care for children.   The “Jeremy Fiedelholtz Safe Day Care Act”, or “Jeremy’s Law”, criminalized lying to parents.

For Jordan’s family, maybe there will be a prosecution … after a funeral.

Parents Need Help

It has been reported that Jordan’s daycare center was cited by State inspectors for 42 violations in four years.  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.

Broward County inspects and oversees daycare centers here under a contract with Florida’s Department of Children and Families Child Care Service. The inspections are reported on-line, including the violations.  Inspection reports for Jordan’s facility are no longer available on-line.

Florida Statute 402.3125(1)(b)(1) requires violations which result in disciplinary action to be posted in a conspicuous place, along with the plan for corrective action.  Were there any disciplinary actions taken against Jordan’s facility?   Presumably not all violations result in disciplinary actions.  Were any violations actually posted conspicuously, whatever that means?

Florida Statute 402.319 imposes penalties for failing to post disciplinary violations.  Obviously, we know that knowledge of violations is important for parents.  But, is “posting” in the facility those that result in disciplinary action really the most effective means to warn parents of dangers lurking in their daycare center?

Demand Mandatory and Direct Disclosure of ALL Violations

Requiring parents to check a government website every morning or periodically to see if there is a new inspection report is not the most effective means to protect our children.  Some families do not have the technology or the skill; others will grow weary since inspections are periodic.

What we need is to amend Florida law:

  • Require mandatory disclosure of ALL inspection reports DIRECTLY to parents.  Simple idea.  Once the inspection report is done, the daycare facility should be obligated to provide a physical copy of the report DIRECTLY to every parent.  Passing an inspection is expected; ALL violations, even those that do not result in formal disciplinary action, should include an explanation and 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”;
  • Amend Florida Statute 402.3125(5)(c) to require in the mandatory brochure given to new parents, a copy of all inspection reports over the previous 12 or 24 months, with an explanation or plan for compliance if an outstanding violation;
  • Require mandatory disclosures of violations from other facilities operated by the same operator and owners, no matter where those other facilities are located.   For Jordan’s facility, the operator has an alleged track record out of state.  But, how would any parent have known the operator was operating with such a dismal record elsewhere?

While at it, do the same for nursing homes and other facilities.  Mandate actual physical disclosures of the actual inspection reports and how operators perform at other facilities to protect our other most vulnerable population, our seniors and those in need of high-level care in facilities.

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 or being violated.

Jordan and Jeremy are now bound together in a common fate.  Can they help the next family?

Can we?

(Mayor Michael J. Ryan, a lawyer, was elected in 2010 and has lived with his wife and two children in Sunrise over a decade.)



22 Responses to “Ryan: Toughen Daycare Center Law To Require More Disclosure To Parents”

  1. Commissioner Angelo Castillo says:

    Friends,

    I love reading Mike Ryan’s articles because his approach to things is just so refreshing and straight forward. Thank you Mayor for that analysis. I would only add one more point which is more general in nature.

    Increasingly, it seems as though Florida is becoming a more and more distanced member of the United States. We seem to have unusual rules here compared to other American states. There seems to be a reluctance to look elsewhere for solution approaches, as if somehow Florida had earned some special designation for governmental excellence.

    There’s much to be proud about in our state. But also, it’s disturbing to note the isolation and divide that seems to exist between Florida and the rest of America. In some ways, that divide seems great than what Alaska and Hawaii experience.

    When it comes to education, handling the unemployed, homeless, poor, unensured, education, etc., Florida is increasingly becoming the land that time forgot.

    National and international best practices exist in all those areas and many more. There are specific best practices in the area of day care. Nationally recognized best practices exist in almost all areas of state program operations.

    I have written extensively about one — Oregon’s vote by mail system. Which if implemented in Florida would vastly improve voter turnout while saving billions. It is crystal clear why that analysis does not take place. State leaders do not want to vastly improve voter turnout. They do not want to save billions on elections. Instead they want to control who gets to vote and who does not, but I digress.

    The goal of EVERY intelligently run state (county, city, corporation, business entity of any kind) is:

    (A) to FIND out who is the best at doing that work and understand why they are the BEST PRACTICE,

    (B) Study them. Figure out why they are best, understanding it at root depth, comparing their efficiencies to other inefficiencies,

    (C) Come home and compare what you have to what they have,

    (D) If what they do is better, then implement what you have learned. Implement the best or better practice however TRY to add an improvement or two nobody else ever thought about, so that

    (E) YOU can become the NEW best practice.

    Now, unless a Governor or a strong Mayor, a CEO of any kind including any company president, a US president, or manager of any operation at all is not doing that, then the result amounts to executive malpractice. It’s just that simple.

    There is no excuse particularly in government for any state not to have a best practice in every area of management except they didn’t try.

    There’s nothing in what Mike is saying above that has not been dealt with in other states. In Florida we have been confronting this very issue for a long time and nobody has given enough of a shit about it to fix it.

    That’s malpractice. This is not professional management. It falls well short of well and faithful service. It demands accountability.

    If we in this country would only for a second stop all the fingerpointing and partisan grandstanding we might come to realize the huge amount of work we have to do and get busy doing it.

    We might realize how little time God gives us to do it.

    And how many benefit when we actually do the job. Or are hurt when we fail. Nice article, Mike.

    Regards,

    Angelo

  2. christine says:

    Mayor Ryan,
    Kudos! Legislation (unfortunately) long over due.

  3. watchdog says:

    Lot of rhetoric. How about some teeth. A city mayor has no clout in Tallahassee. Maybe he can convince county to do their job. Take the license away.

    Put all violations outstanding and closed on a public records/public access website. If parents want to make due diligence they can. SHUT DOWN each facility when cited. They will comply if they want to re-open. Our tax dollars support these outfits even if we have no children. They get federal, state and or county funding.

    How many more kids die before enforcement gets serious?

  4. Floridan says:

    An excellent proposal.

    Unfortunately, the business model for many daycare centers is to cut expenses to below the bare bone. Too often those cuts come at the expense of the kids.

    (Come to think of it, this seems to be the model for the Florida Legislature, as well).

  5. Yawn, Gag & Snore says:

    Yeah, I can just see the parents now after they are handed these reams of paper full of technical details about every inspection of their facility and every related facility. I sure hope the facility also provides a recycle bin, so that we can at least make good use of all that wasted paper.

    10 million times better idea: require the facility to give parents one single-page handout advertising the Dept of Children & Families web page that parents can go to in order to sign up for automatic email notifications of whatever information they would like to instantly receive.

    Since some of these parents don’t have a high school diploma, or even the ability to speak English, the website should be multilingual and written in simplified English (or Spanish or Creole, etc.) with links to the mind-numbing technical details available for all those PhD-toting parents who have nothing better to do all day long than read DCF inspection reports.

    And what about the people without Internet access? Well, it’s already impossible to apply for unemployment benefits, etc. without Internet access, so apparently Florida has already abandoned them. But wait, it gets even better – many people who have been convicted of certain crimes involving Internet use are legally barred from even using the Internet, so if they become unemployed, or need other government services, they’re unable to even apply… I suppose the next step will be to put all the suicide prevention services online too!

  6. I am parent says:

    This is not an issue of partisanship. How could legislators not push Jeremy’s law to the front lines? This should be a talking point to every elected official that is is either in office, or wanting to be considered for office. Politicians need to start recognizing the need for this change. These are our children our future! Young lives being lost due to negligence, by not only the daycare, but by the system itself. How many more children will be at risk, before legislators recognize that swift action needs to be taking by all of you who hold the power? What is a child’s life worth? We as parents, have a right to know if we are putting our children in a safest environment possible. There are many things in policy making, that move slowly, but this should not be one of them. Get these changes in as soon as possible, so parents have the opportunity to choose the best place for their children.
    What is going? So many stories about the children of the future suffer from things that are in our control! From bus stops, to bulling coaches, to negligent principals, simple law changes in legislation could provide parents with information to protect their children. What have we become when we cannot protect the children of the future?

  7. I am parent says:

    Clarification: How could legislators not push the above mentioned changes and/or modification to Jeremy’s law to the front lines? Jordan’s circumstances should highlight the dire need for additional regulations and enforcement.

  8. To Yawn, Gag & Snore>>>> says:

    Wow, it’s amazing how out of touch you truly seem to be. I believe the whole intent of this article is to emphasize the needs for change. It is obvious that parents are intrusting their children to what they assume to be safe facilities. No matter the educational or competency levels of any parent, it is typically parental instinctive nature to want the best care for their offspring. Therefore, it is safe to assume that parents would not knowingly leave their children in unsafe care facility. The information concerning poor performance by a child care facility needs to be available for the parents regardless of what type of media it is communicated through.

  9. 53% says:

    47%

  10. SSKFJF says:

    Why is the anwer always for more regulation.

  11. watchdog says:

    …”It has been reported that Jordan’s daycare center was cited by State inspectors for 42 violations in four years.”…

    We have laws and statutes, and penalties for non-compliance. They are obviously not enforced in Broward County.

    Whose fault is that and why did this innocent and helpless child have to die? And one in Dade and one in PB County in the last year or two?

  12. Chaz Stevens, Genius says:

    >> Whose fault is that and why did this innocent and helpless child have to die?

    Why, my good chum, no one is at fault.

    It was God’s will.*

    * He’s a spiteful bastard, that one.

  13. The Answer says:

    SSKSJF: because too many people are scumbags and require rules to do what non-scumbags would do without rules. That’s why.

  14. John Henry says:

    The more kids the daycare has means more money for the owner. The owners don’t care about the kids–they care about the $$$ the gov’t gives for each kid. That is why you have abject morons working at these types of places. How stupid are you to leave a child in a van?????

    Solution–start defunding these crappy kiddy prisons at the federal level and make the parents pay for their own child’s daycare.

  15. @ I am parent says:

    ms. parent, if you are not smart enough, or care enough to get the records now (which are available if you cared to check), what makes you think you will understand a highly technical contract monitoring report.
    Many issues of noncompliance involve paperwork or other non-safety related issues, which again, are available if you cared to look.
    While well intentioned, this giant waste of paper just going to create problems from hysterical parents who see “violations” and don’t know what they mean.
    I’d be curious to see what the 42 violations were for and if they were safety related.

  16. The Answer says:

    Chaz: The same God that “allowed” this child to die gave us you. Perhaps he is a spiteful bastard.

  17. Chaz Stevens, Genius says:

    >> Chaz: The same God that “allowed” this child to die gave us you.

    I agree. He is a rude bastard. So why not join my team (the atheists)? Not having to live life, always looking over your shoulder, worrying about pissing off your imaginary friend. It’s really refreshing.

    Plus, as an added bonus, you can go right ahead and covet your neighbor’s ass.

    Personally speaking, my neighbor…. She’s a hottie.

  18. I know Chaz's neighbor says:

    She’s 85 and toothless…but she’s breathing so I suppose that makes her a hottie to Chaz.

  19. tax payer says:

    There are plenty of daycares that are privately funded, paid for by the parents of the kids. I have yet to read of a child’s death in one of those in S FL.

    The taxpayer subsidized daycare’s (Federal, state and county tax funded) where this child died, along with the one in Delray Beach in August 2010 and South Dade in July 2011 (both died left in vans) consistently are cited yet continue to operate and when the funds are cut (and this is their only source of revenue) they close down. So as comment posted above states, the solution is to halt the funding.

    If we are lucky we the taxpayers will only pay millions in this lawsuit filed by these parents, just as we did in the Dade and Delray death lawsuits.

  20. kim and kelly says:

    Of course everyone is talking about Mum and Daddy’s House that Chaz lives in…

  21. The Answer says:

    The Genius may be Godless but he has a sense of humor.

  22. Charlotte Greenbarg says:

    The facility was cited 42 times? And not closed down? Could it possibly be, shocking as it may seem, that the owners had some kind of political clout?

    How much funding does a facility need to make sure kids are accounted for? This place obviously needed to be shut down after the first 10 citations.

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