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DSS also terminated the child care center's participation in the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP), which provides funding to the center to help low-income families pay for child care. DSS is contacting all parents with children at Wanda's Kid World who received CCAP to inform them of the termination and to assist them in securing other child care arrangements.
"Louisiana families have many expectations for child care, but first on every parent's list is safety," DSS Secretary Kristy Nichols said. "This is a horrific tragedy that could have easily been prevented if the child care center had followed the safety regulations in place. Facilities that repeatedly violate these safety standards will be dealt with swiftly and will not be allowed to care for children and risk placing them in danger."
The revocation is the first by DSS since SB 238 was signed on Tuesday giving DSS the sole authority to revoke or license child care facilities immediately. Prior to Tuesday, DSS could not immediately revoke or deny a child care license without first bringing the recommendation to the now abolished Louisiana Advisory Committee on Licensing of Child Care Facilities and Child Placing Agencies for approval at their monthly meeting.
Three violations of child care standards were cited in the revocation letter to Wanda Conner, owner of Wanda's Kid World.
- Section 7303.D.2 [cruelty or indifference to the welfare of children] in that the center left a child on the center's van on July 1, 2009 causing that child's death;
- Section 7303.D.7 [history of noncompliance] as shown by the revocations of License # 5989 on May 3, 2002; License # 796 on April 18, 2006; and License # 13102 on January 14, 2009;
- Section 7335.F [visual check of vehicle] as a visual check of vehicle was not performed on July 1, 2009 resulting in the death of a child.
- Centers must document and log the time when a child is picked up.
- Centers must document and log the time when they arrive at the child care center.
- Centers must document and log the time when they enter the child care facility.
- Center personnel must document that a visual inspection of the vehicle has been done by a worker to ensure that all children are out of the vehicle.
On May 15 of this year, the Department of Children & Family Services cited Wanda's Kid World with two deficiencies, including failure to provide adequate staff-to-child ratio when transporting children under five years of age.
That deficiency was cleared by DSS on June 23 based on a review of travel logs that were presented showing proper ratios were met. During that review, Wanda's Kid World was also cited for four additional deficiencies, such as improper supervision and harmful substances not being properly secured.
The DSS Child Care Licensing and Regulatory Section in the Office of Family Support is sending a letter to all 1,878 child care centers in the state reminding them of the specific regulations related to the transportation of children which must be followed. To date, 961 child care centers have a specific license to provide transportation, either daily or for field trips, for children in their care.
In addition to the passage and signing of SB 238, additional reforms have been initiated by DSS that will strengthen enforcement of licensing issues. DSS is in the process of revising child care regulations, including the use of tools and sanctions in enforcing the standards, as well as the possible implementation of a rule that would prevent centers from being relicensed for a minimum of 12 months after a license has been revoked.