SALT LAKE CITY -- Placing a child in day care is a reality for many working parents but finding quality care isn’t always easy.
Parents must do their homework and visit the facility to ensure their child is in a safe environment.
But how can parents really know if their child’s day care is up to par?
One layer of protection parents should look for when choosing a provider, is finding one who is licensed by the state of Utah.
Licensed child care providers are required to abide by state regulations and are inspected every year.
These inspections often uncover procedures that may be dangerous to a child.
Four years ago, Chris Hauck and his wife turned to the Internet to find a caregiver for his then, newborn daughter.
“My wife was doing a google search and we found neighborhood day cares and we were looking for a small place instead of a large more commercial place. That`s how we found Ilse, said Chris Hauck.
Ilse Wilson operates a licensed daycare out of her Sandy home called Fairyland Day Care.
Wilson said she started as a nanny and got her education in early childhood education.
“I have a group license so I'm licensed for 16. We have about 13 here today,” Wilson said.
According to the Utah Bureau of Child Development, Fairyland Day Care is one of 881 licensed, home-based day cares in Utah.
In addition, there are 310 licensed day care centers operating in the state.
In all, these facilities accommodate nearly 38,000 children.
Licensed child care providers are required to abide by state regulations.
About 500 inspections are conducted every month across the state by 21 inspectors.
“Every single provider who is licensed by us is required to have at least two annual inspections,” said Simon Bolivar, license program administrator for Utah child care.
Bolivar heads the child care licensing division for the Utah Department of Health. He oversees the inspectors responsible for visiting day care centers and homes twice a year.
If there are complaints or suspicion of non-compliance, inspectors may make more frequent visits.
“Most of them we want to do unannounced to really have our own vision of what the situation is,” Bolivar said.
Inspectors serve as first responders tasked with scrutinizing every aspect of a day care to ensure kids are in a safe, nurturing environment.
They work closely with providers to make sure guidelines are being met.
Sarah Atherton, lead licensing specialist, said there are about 450 rules centers have to follow.
“Nobody wants to be out of compliance,” Atherton said.
Inspectors look for different kinds of violations that are classified in three levels.
The worst offenses are placed in level one, which includes anything that could harm a child.
That includes abuse and neglect by staff.
Other concerns are having too many students per teacher, not providing staff background checks or keeping children's immunization records on file.
“We check for harmful items for the kids -- for example, chemicals or sharp objects. We make sure the rooms are safe, depending on their ages,” Bolivar said.
If there is a violation discovered, child care providers are cited and the violation becomes part of their public record.
Of the more than 55,000 inspections conducted so far in 2014 inspectors found about 2,600 various violations, according to the Utah Bureau of Child Development.
If providers don't correct the problem right away, their license could be immediately suspended or revoked.
“We have had a couple of facilities that have closed because of violations,” Bolivar said.
Nineteen facilities were forced to close their doors this year – two of the day cares cited with abuse and neglect violations, according to the Bureau of Child Development.
An Inspection of a Utah day care center
FOX 13’s Vaifanua tagged along while Atherton conducted an inspection at Eccles Lab School, a day care on the campus of Salt Lake Community College.
The facility submits to inspections at least three times a year.
Atherton started with a checklist.
“We give the director some information on how the inspection will go along, ask them for some clarifying information,” Atherton said.
Sharlie Barber manages the day care. She answers dozens of questions.
Has staff completed background checks?
How are they supervised to ensure children aren't abused?
How often are toys and bathrooms cleaned?
And what are the sign in and sign out procedures?
“Regulation keeps you on your toes and makes sure that we are providing the best for our children and have a safe and healthy environment for them,” Barber said.
Atherton moves onto a classroom checklist, looking for safety hazards such as sharp objects or loose cords lying around and if children are exposed to toxic or hazardous chemicals.
Joseph Petersen, home lead licensing specialist, handled the playground inspection.
“We`re looking for potential strangulation hazards, entrapment hazards,” Petersen said.
Hazards include broken or worn out equipment, ample cushioning for when the children fall and if the area is enclosed.
“Parents kind of count on us, there's not really a trial and error system when you leave your child at a licensed facility so we have to be proactive. Hopefully, find things before they happen,” Petersen said.
No violations were found at the day care.
Inspection at Fairyland Day Care
Petersen visited the home-based day care in Sandy, owned and operated by Ilse Wilson.
Petersen promptly goes through all rooms and play areas for safety hazards.
“Life happens and children are children. Something might be out of compliance. You do your best to stay on top of it,” Wilson said.
Inspectors say Wilson added extra security measures on her own accord by installing cameras so parents can check on their kids.
She also put a security lock on her front door that parents can access with a code so they can drop in at any time.
“I think of it as if I were looking for child care. What I’m expecting. I have high expectations so i provide that for all the families,” Wilson said.
Inspectors cleared Fairyland Day Care of any violations.
Chris Hauck sees this as a seal of approval.
“Random inspections, and then obviously scheduled inspections are very valuable. It gives you that extra security that your kids are you know in a safe environment,” Hauck said.
Inspection reports can be found online at careaboutchildcare.utah.gov.
You can look up any licensed provider, and a get a detailed report of violations from the past two years, and when the facility corrected the errors.
More information can be found at childcarelicensing.utah.gov.