More Trouble In City Day Care System
(New York- WABC, November 15, 2005) (WABC) -- There are more disturbing questions about the effectiveness of the agency that monitors New York day care providers.
The Eyewitness News investigators have been looking into this for a year. Now, the city council is asking tough questions as our investigation uncovers even more problems.
Jim Hoffer has the story.
The more we investigate, the more serious the problem seems. We went door-to-door to in-home day care sites and checked thousands of inspection records, to find increasing evidence that the city still struggles to keep tabs on day care providers.
Why is this happening more than a year after promised reforms? That's what city council wants to know.
City Councilwoman Christine Quinn: "First and foremost, I'm troubled that you didn't answer the question as frankly as you could have."
The head of city council's health committee took the commissioner of day care to task for first telling her they had 52 inspectors. In actuality, the city currently has only 37 inspectors because it has failed to fill 15 vacancies.
That means, there are about the same number of inspectors the city had more than a year ago when lax day care oversight played a part in the death of infant Mathew Perilli.
Quinn: "I wanted to know how many people are out there because empty slots can't go and check on things. So it was a disingenuous answer and I think that was a mistake and it raises much more concerns than I had when I entered the room today."
This shortage of inspectors explains the findings of our earlier investigation, which revealed how the health department was failing to revisit family day care providers within the mandated 30 days to see whether serious violations had been corrected.
When our investigation first aired, the head of the bureau of day care down played our findings, claiming that only a small number of family day care providers found to be unsafe, factually failed to be re-inspected within the mandatory 30 days.
Frank Cresciullo, Asst. Commissioner Bureau of Day Care: "We were late on the visits approximately 10 percent of the time throughout the entire city."
We decided to check out the 10 percent figure. We looked in-depth at the records of more than 600 family day care providers throughout the city, all with serious violations many involving smoke detectors, window safety bars, and cleaning fluids stored unsafely.
What we found is that in 45 percent of the cases, not 10 percent, inspectors failed to follow-up within 30 days to see that the problems were fixed.
Quinn: "They are deeply troubling numbers."
Councilwoman Quinn says the city's failure to keep tabs on the serious day care violators sends the wrong message: "It's a message that says we are not serious about monitoring these agencies."
Hoffer: 'What good is the inspection system if in fact, follow up takes four, five, six months?"
Cresciullo: "I fully agree it's unacceptable to do a follow up compliance on a six-seven month time frame. Our policy is 30 days and we are moving toward that model."
Perhaps because as we learned today we have no more inspectors than we did 15 months ago.
Quinn: "I think this speaks to there not being enough resources, enough people power to do these inspections and reinspections."
For about a year, there has been enough money to hire 15 more inspectors, but the bureau of day care says attrition and civil service red tape have kept those 15 positions vacant. All the while, hundreds of potentially unsafe day care providers are simply not getting those follow-up inspections.
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