Audit finds Louisiana falls short in regulating child care providers

CHILD CARE AUDIT

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - A recently released audit reveals Louisiana falls short when it comes to regulating child care providers. It’s the first time the Department of Education has been audited since it took over regulatory duties four years ago. While the audit indicates some improvements have been made, more must be done.

Doc is just shy of 2-years-old and is enrolled at a quality daycare center.

“It’s up to par. There are really good teachers, a security system so, yeah. I’m happy with it,” said Doc’s mom, Cardolyn Ward.

Even so, Ward says the findings of a recent audit are alarming. It reveals Louisiana's standards aren't in line with national best practices.

“I wouldn’t want my little ones going to a daycare where they’re not licensed or there are too many children,” Ward said.

Yet, the audit indicates that’s happening in Louisiana. We spoke to a manager with the performance audit service who tells us that though the Louisiana Department of Education has made improvements, more must be done.

“For example, child-to-staff ratios. We have higher child-to-staff ratio requirements than other states, so that’s less one-on-one time between the teacher and the child,” explained Performance Audit Service Manager Krista Baker-Hernandez.

Some parents tell us they’ve seen the consequences firsthand.

“You can sit here and you can ask my 3-year-old his ABCs, his numbers, his shapes, his letters, he’ll tell you all of that. You ask my 4-year-old, he doesn’t know it, but he’s the one who’s been in school. That’s crazy,” said parent Danielle Boykins.

The audit found more. It indicates the process for investigating complaints is ineffective, and complaints against unlicensed providers operating illegally were not investigated in a timely manner. What’s more, audit managers say the department wasn’t issuing formal corrective action plans.

“They don’t give providers written specific steps to take in order to correct those deficiencies, and they also don’t provide deadlines for compliance, so you’re really not holding those providers accountable,” Baker-Hernandez said.

The audit also found the child care provider website doesn't have all the information required by law.

"You want to find information about the provider that's providing care for your children and not having the necessary information regarding providers that have deficiency, serious deficiencies, really put the parents in the state at a disadvantage when they're trying to make these decisions," said Baker-Hernandez.

For parents like Ward, there's only one solution to the issues the audit found.

"Somebody needs to step up. It needs to be a number one priority, honestly, because education is the key. You can't do anything without education. You can't do anything without knowledge," said Ward.

We reached out to the Louisiana Department of Education. Representatives sent us a statement saying they agree with the audit’s findings and “immediate steps have been taken to implement new procedures and practices aligned with the recommendations.”

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