The state of Oregon is ramping up efforts to protect kids in daycare and crack down on problem facilities, according to state leaders.
Efforts include a new website designed to be more upfront with parents about specific providers who violate state laws.
The Department of Education Early Learning Division told FOX 12 there are 46 state licensing specialists responsible for monitoring some 4,200 licensed daycare facilities. Their caseload is reportedly three times the national average.
In 2017, the state agency reported it found 297 kids were seriously injured in daycares across the state. Those injuries required attention from a licensed health professional, such as a physician, EMT, or nurse.
State data also shows 26 children were abused in Oregon daycares and two others died.
Staff was also called to investigate 165 illegal care complaints at Oregon facilities, according to the state.
"We need families to trust the places we've licensed are providing healthy and safe care," said Child Care Director Dawn Woods.
Woods told FOX 12 she was recently hired to look at whether or not the state is doing enough to protect children.
"Some of the first steps I took was to assess the needs and really ask the hard questions, why are we doing what we're doing and do we need to do more?" Wood said.
An assessment led state employees to nearly double their enforcement actions from 2016-2017, according to Woods. The state agency also improved provider background checks with federal funding.
Still, Woods and others at the state agency admit the office has a long way to go in terms of transparency and keeping parents informed about complaints filed against specific daycares.
"Our old website was not adequate to give families the information they need," said Woods.
"Essentially if the complaint was called in and found valid, that's what was posted to the website. What wasn't posted, was if our own licensor went out and found a valid finding. That wasn't posted, so it didn't provide parents with a complete picture,” Wood said.
The state is now preparing to launch a new website based on a web portal from the Utah Department of Health. The process has taken longer than expected, but Woods said the website is slated to go live sometime in March.
When up and running, the website will allegedly provide parents with a way to search facility records by name and instantly get up-to-date information about violations specific to each provider.
"Until that site is up and running, we really encourage families to call us," said Woods. "We can give a thorough account of what a facility is like and what has happened beyond what our website has currently."
Woods tells FOX 12 her office is also pushing for a child care safety bill to pass this special session which would provide them with better enforcement tools.
"We need cease and assist orders, increased penalties for providers and progressive discipline frame work for when taking action," she added.
The state said the best thing people can do when considering a daycare program is to spend time there, visit different times during the day and talk to other parents.
It's also important to check the Early Learning Division's website to make sure a facility is licensed and to call them with any concerns.
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