South Carolina Day Cares Safer After 1993 Abuse/ Murder Case

Parents in South Carolina are working hard to pay their bills and take care of their families. Federal data tells us in most U.S. families, all the adults work. Fewer than 1 in 3 children have a full-time, stay-at-home parent. In order for that to be possible, families must entrust their young children to other caregivers. Often, that is a day care facility. childgroup

Approximately 11 million children are in non-relative child care programs across the country. Although many of these places are well-run, too often, daycare injuries result in hospitalization, long-term recovery, disability and death. Part of the issue had long been a lack of oversight. This is one area at least we can say in which South Carolina has greatly improved in recent years. Unfortunately, it took a horrific case of abuse and murder to spur those changes.

It’s been more than 20 years since the operator of a private home daycare in Irmo was investigated for the deaths of two babies in the injury of a third. A case was filed against the woman in 1993, and she was eventually sentenced to prison for life. Horrific as the case was, it forced the state to confront systemic regulatory failures of in-home day cares. It also exposed problems with how social workers and police investigated child injuries and deaths and how pathologists determined whether those injuries/ deaths were natural or the result of a crime. These changes have helped to improve safety for South Carolina’s children, though parents and loved ones still need to remain vigilant. Even where daycare workers do not intentionally harm children, acts of negligence (i.e., failure to supervise, failure to properly feed, failure to maintain playground equipment, etc.) can have the same tragic effect.

A recent article in The Herald details some of the changes made to increase protections of children – both in daycare and in general. Among those:

  • Improved training for police and coroners throughout the state’s 46 counties, including training in how to recognize the subtleties of violence against children and techniques for gathering accurate evidence;
  • The founding of the Special Victims unit, a central investigative body for child deaths at the State Law Enforcement Division;
  • A network of doctors who specialize in treating child injuries (which show up differently than in adults) was founded to assist police and social workers;
  • The number of state inspectors responsible for day care oversight increased from 17 in 1993 to 54 as of 2014. These new inspectors were funded by federal dollars;
  • Regulators can now make unannounced inspections of in-home daycares (as of 2014), prompting 346 in-home day cares to close either by choice or regulators shutting them down (a 27.5 percent reduction);
  • Increase in mandatory training for the remaining 900+ in-home daycare providers from two hours to 10 hours, with state officials having the authority to close those who fail to comply;
  • Internal communication between daycare regulators and child abuse social workers for the state has improved;
  • In-home day care providers now must submit fingerprints and undergo criminal background checks. This includes anyone older than 15 who lives, moves into or works in such a facility.

Still child safety advocates say there is much more that can and should be done. It’s estimated by the Division of Forensic Pediatrics at the University of South Carolina’s School of Medicine that approximately 4,000 children are abuse victims annually. One area that requires more improvement is the increased regulation of daycares, child safety advocates say.

From January 2011 through July 2016, there were 18 children who died of daycare injuries in South Carolina. Another 860 were injured badly enough to see a physician. Of those 18 killed, 10 happened at in-home day care centers and 4 happened at illegal daycare centers.

Contact the Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:

Children in S.C. day cares are safer, but more should be done, experts say, Sept. 18, 2016, By Clif LeBlanc, The Herald

More Blog Entries:

Anderson Jury Awards $4.6M to Woman Pricked by Needle in Store Parking Lot, Sept. 14, 2016, Anderson Daycare Injury Lawyer Blog

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