Daycare Concerns Among Senators and Advocates

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Columbia, SC (WLTX) - Testimony from a young mother whose infant died while at day care in the upstate is giving lawmakers and child advocates concern about oversight.

"As parents we are fighting for stricter DSS laws toward day care centers," said Kathryn Martin during a Senate subcommittee meeting Wednesday.

The death of Martin's 3 month old daughter highlighted differences between 'registered' and 'licensed' day care centers and what the different designations mean for kids.

Unlike licensed centers, registered centers can only have 6 kids in their care.

Despite the fact registered centers are listed on the DSS website, they are not required to have unannounced DSS inspections.

"The owner of the daycare allegedly lied to police officers and said she was only caring for the 6 children she was permitted to keep," Martin said of the daycare her daughter died in. "In fact there were 14 more found in the basement, 2 more upstairs in an upstairs bedroom unsupervised with a loaded gun in reach, and one toddler outside unsupervised."

Licensed day care centers however have DSS evaluations every 2 years and are required to get unannounced inspection visits.

"DSS comes in periodically throughout the year to check ratios, to make sure we have the right amount of teachers for children," said Mara Dunkin who runs a daycare in northeast Columbia. "They're checking for safety issues. Are the safety plugs outlets covered? Is your fence high enough and in good repair? Do you have enough cushioning on the ground for climbing equipment?"

Martin, the woman whose infant died at a home day care, testified before a DSS oversight committee and asked members enhance regulations she says would have prevented the death of her daughter.

"We are fighting so the bill requires more DSS inspections to registered day care centers, a requirement of yearly CPR certification, business license, and a check of conditions relating to the home and daycare equipment," Martin said.

Senators Tom Young (R-Aiken) and Katrina Shealy (R-Lexington) are on a DSS oversight committee and considering legislation to change the rules.

"We've got to find out what the answer is because we cannot continue to let children die in South Carolina," Shealy said.

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