MILWAUKEE — After allegations of child abuse at a Waukesha daycare facility, questions arose about who is responsible for making sure children are safe when they are at a daycare facility.
According to the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families, if a daycare is licensed, it has rules and regulations it has to follow and those places are supposed to be inspected by state workers.
A long-time daycare owner in Milwaukee, Olivia El-Amin, says she has had to call the state when she suspected a parent of abusing their child.
"We've had to do that in the past, make that phone call for a child that there may have been some abuse,” said Olivia El-Amin, the owner of Catherine Early Childhood Development Center.
She says there is no mistake about what you are supposed to do as a daycare worker when it comes to abuse and neglect.
"We are mandated reporters, we have to do it right away and it can be a challenge if we decide to wait or maybe we think it isn't that big of a deal. That can be an issue for the child care faculty,” said El-Amin.
DCF regulates daycares. It declined to do an on-camera interview, but sent TMJ4 the state guidelines. The rules vary depending on the type of daycare. However, across the board, a worker has to report abuse or neglect of a child immediately.
For a state-licensed daycare, if a child is hurt and it is not abuse or neglect but the family seeks medical attention, the daycare has 24 hours to report it.
Daycares must notify parents if a child:
- Becomes ill
- Needs a medical evaluation
- Experiences a head injury
- Sustains a minor injury even if it doesn't require medical attention
A professor of early childhood education at the University of Wisconsin Whitewater, Lucy Heimer says regulations are important but you need trained and qualified workers.
"I think we're in crisis, right, we're enduring and kind of still walking through the effects of the pandemic. The child care industry is really very, very slow to recover,” said Heimer.
It is a sentiment El-Amin agrees with.
"Childcare is notoriously low for pay, unfortunately. And not having that background in education and academics. So it has always been a really big challenge for us but with Covid in our face, it became an even greater problem,” said El-Amin.
They say a real concern with a lack of workers is some daycare facilities might cut corners. But state inspections are supposed to be in place to find that.
According to DCF, state inspectors are supposed to make at least one unannounced visit a year to a licensed facility. If there are problems, the state is supposed to return to check that those issues have been taken care of.
El-Amin's advice to parents is no matter what the state inspection report, she says to trust your gut.
"If they come through the door and things are not in order, if things are tattered. If there are too many kids in the classroom. If the building is not clean. Those are some of the things I would be looking for,” said El-Amin.
All state inspection reports for licensed daycares in Wisconsin are online here.