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