You want to know your children are safe when you drop them off at daycare, but that security is not always easy to come by because the state cannot keep track of which providers are following the rules.
There are hundreds of unregulated, in-home daycares in Texas, and many of them are in the Austin area.
Dozens of people right here in Central Texas are willing to watch your kids in their own homes at a low price, and all they need is an online ad for affordable child care
Lanie Matula sent her three-year-old daughter Layla to an in-home daycare she found online. At a $100 per week price tag, she explained, “The main reason I was looking at an in-home daycare is financially it’s a little bit less than at an actual daycare itself.”
At the time, she says it seemed like a good idea. Now, years later she says she can’t remember if that daycare was registered.
Julie Moody with the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services says, “As a parent you want to ask the daycare provider. ‘Are you listed with the state?'”
DFPS says knowing your daycare is registered is crucial to the safety of your child. It’s an easy process for the provider. Fill out an application, pay $35 each year and follow some simple rules.
A few of those rules: no more than 12 kids in your home, criminal background checks on everyone living there, an emergency evacuation plan, and a carbon monoxide detector.
Moody goes on to say, “I mean there’s training involved, there’s background checks. It’s also just that basic health and safety standards.”
Right now, the state says it relies mostly on tips from the public to learn when an in-home daycare is not following the rules.
KXAN obtained letters the agency gave to 10 unregistered daycares in Travis and Williamson Counties following up on complaints on everything from abuse to neglect.
“When we do find unregulated daycares we always help get them to become regulated,” says Moody.
If the daycares do not comply, the state may shut them down after multiple warnings.
We checked back with the daycares that received those letters. One woman says the registration process was not worth the time, money and effort.
KXAN: “So you didn’t know you were supposed to register?
Former Daycare Provider: “No, I didn’t know at all … I don’t really understand why people have to register to babysit. People trust you. It should be fine.”
DFPS officials say finding unregulated daycares is getting tougher. In both 2011 and 2012, they discovered 270 facilities. In 2013, that number jumped to more than 400.
“We need to have more people looking for unregulated daycares,” said Moody. State lawmakers just gave the agency $4 million to hire 40 full-time investigators. They are now in training, but the agency warns parents to do some investigating on their own.
Moody said, “The first sort of red flag is if it’s too good to be true, they’re probably not regulated.”
Right now the additional investigators are finishing their training. A DFPS spokesperson says they should be out on the streets looking for illegal daycares within the next six months.
To find out of your child’s daycare is listed, visit http://www.dfps.state.tx.us/