Parents, and any other members of the public, should know that no government agency is allowed to withhold public information. Reports and inspections of child care facilities are public records and should be available to you when requested.
Unfortunately, the process doesn't always run smoothly.
When trying to get access to the reports and inspections for five local child care facilities, I called the Section for Child Care Regulation and requested an appointment. I did not say why I wanted to see the documents, and I did not specify that I am reporter from the News Tribune because I don't have to do that when seeking public documents.
When I arrived at the office for my appointment, a department employee came into the waiting area carrying the files I had requested. She told me I would have to fill out a form before I could see the files and she asked if I was an attorney or a member of the media. I responded that I was a member of the media, and she immediately took the files, telling me I needed to first go through the Office of Public Information, which is within the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, to request the files.
I responded that I did not believe I should have to. The files are public records and I followed their rules by making an appointment and requesting specific information. She repeated that I would need to go through the Office of Public Information.
Once I told her that I had been in touch with that office for questions related to child care that week, she went to speak with her supervisor and, about 10 minutes later, I was given the first file.
No one can tell you that you are not allowed access to documents that are required to be public. Missouri state statutes specify these files, and substantiated parental complaints against a child care facility, as public records and it is your right to have access to them.
What parents need to know
The Section for Child Care Regulation is under the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. Their website, health.mo.gov/safety/childcare, contains information on inspections, licensing and child care providers in Missouri.
Inspection and safety reports for child care providers are public documents, and parents have the right to look at reports for any facility. The website's provider search will list all licensed and unlicensed child care providers in a city or county, and some inspections reports are available for a few of the providers.
The department is in the process of getting all inspection reports online, but many have yet to be uploaded.
In order to see full inspection and safety reports for a facility in Mid-Missouri, parents may contact the central district office for the Section for Child Care Regulation, located in Jefferson City at 3418 Knipp Drive, at 573-751-2891 to make an appointment.
You should have the names of the facilities and their addresses ready when you call, so they can prepare the correct files. Files also should contain any substantiated parental complaints against the child care facility.
How to report a concern
Any concerns about a provider can be reported to the Section for Child Care Regulation. When reporting a concern, you have the right to remain anonymous or have your name withheld from the report.
To report a concern, you can contact the central district office for the Section for Child Care Regulation, located in Jefferson City at 3418 Knipp Drive, at 573-751-2891. You also can fill out a form online at health.mo.gov/safety/childcare/concerns.php.
Random sampling of JC child care centers
The News Tribune pulled a random sampling of inspections and reports for four Jefferson City child care facilities. Here is a sampling of what was found:
• The Learning Connection Child Development Center - A July 2012 inspection found the fence was not safely designed and the inspector noted a broken gate and another gate that did not securely latch. The facility was found in compliance by mid-September 2012. Substantiated complaints were filed in March 2012 that stated two employees witnessed another employee hit a child in the mouth to stop him from biting another child. Another March 2012 complaint noted an employee said she was going to cut out a child's tongue because he would not be quiet during nap time.
• Kidz Kingdom - In October 2012, the child care facility was found non-compliant in several issues, including an entrapment hazard because of a 5-inch gap in the fence gate.
• Children's Garden of Knowledge - In November 2012, an inspector noted a urine odor in the boys bathroom and that several children were missing the required enrollment information and immunization records.
• High Hill Academy - In September 2010, a letter of censure was sent to the facility because of disciplinary actions and complaints from 2008 and 2009. An inspection in February 2012 found the facility non-compliant in several areas and a notice of denial of license renewal was sent in early March 2012. The facility was denied a license renewal March 30, 2012. In early May 2012, the facility was found to be compliant with licensing regulations.