MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) – There’s a lot to consider when choosing care for your little ones, and one former Grand Strand childcare worker revealed what parents should look for, and what shouldn’t be overlooked.
Romeshia Bruton said her dream was to work with children.
“My heart just told me, you want to teach, you’re going to teach people’s babies,” she said.
She worked at multiple childcare centers and said while she loved working with children, over time she found it wasn’t what she expected.
“It’s stressful. It’s overwhelming and stressful,” Bruton said.
She said she saw many childcare workers, or teachers, get burned out.
“Sometimes you need a director to come in and give you five minutes, but you don’t get that in childcare, nobody is there to give you those five minutes to breathe,” she said.
Bruton said in her experience if they speak up about an issue, there can be repercussions.
“Sometimes teachers, if they file a complaint, they’ll get treated differently or they’ll eventually lose their jobs,” she said.
Filing a complaint, as Bruton mentioned, is done with the South Carolina Department of Social Services, which oversees the health and safety within licensed childcare facilities.
MORE INFORMATION | DSS Childcare Complaint Information
Connelly-Anne Ragley, the director of communications and external affairs with SCDSS, said a complaint with the department will trigger a random inspection of the center.
“They are going to look at records, maybe they’re going to ask to review if there’s footage in the building, they’re going to ask to interview staff,” Ragley said.
However, Bruton said a random inspection isn’t always effective.
“I’ve experienced where a complaint has been filed, and DSS, they will come, but by the time they’re there you have people running from room to room saying ‘DSS is here, DSS is here, DSS is here,’” Bruton said.
When WMBF News asked Ragley about the effectiveness of the random searches, she echoed what Bruton said and that some childcare centers can cover up some issues, but it’s hard to hide more urgent concerns, such as a facility not having background checks or fingerprinting done for employees.
Not having a background check is just one of the red flags Ragley said to look for when choosing a childcare facility.
All complaints, their severity, corresponding reports, and whether they’ve been resolved can be found on the state’s website. The complaints are ranked low, medium, and high. While there isn’t a list of all potential concerns for each category, Ragley said to look out for “high severity” complaints relating to staff records, staff health or student ratios.
Ragley added that anyone can file a complaint to DSS, from parents to childcare workers to childcare directors and owners. However, she suggested talking to the facility’s directors or owners first about any concerns.
Bruton said that approach didn’t work for her.
“They want to take in every kid they can possibly get. I’ve had a case where I filed a complaint, and I told my director, and she said ‘Well, I’m not going to call DSS because I don’t want to lose that kid, or those kids,” Bruton explained.
Parent, Tabitha Tatum, said she felt similarly, after an experience years ago with her infant son. She said she watched surveillance video of him crying for hours and not being fed, but the owner did not seem concerned.
“I felt like I was just a number. I felt like my child being in that facility was just a number, and they knew that if my child goes out, one more comes,” Tatum recalled.
Ragley said it’s important to remember that childcare centers are private businesses, purely regulated by the state. She said running a childcare facility is hard work and oftentimes, they are operating on thin margins. However, she said SCDSS will shut down a childcare provider if necessary.
“It’s not something that we like doing, but at the end of the day, if children are at risk, if staff are at risk, we will shut down a childcare center,” Ragley said.
Ragley, Bruton and Tatum all agreed, most childcare centers work tirelessly to provide quality care for children, and it’s important for parents to do their homework before choosing where to send their child. Bruton advised taking a tour and asking lots of questions.
“If you’re just looking at that one classroom, well, they’re aware that you’re coming to look at this classroom, that your kid has to be in, but take that extra five minutes to look at the other classrooms, see how they’re ran, observe the teachers,” Bruton advised.
When searching for childcare on the state’s website, some facilities have a letter grade next to their name. Ragley said that is not the ranking system you might imagine. She said any childcare center with a letter next to its name means it voluntarily participates in a program called “ABC Quality,” which means that center goes above and beyond the state standards and expectations. Meaning, a place with an ABC Quality rating of a “C” could be better than a center with no letter grade at all, not participating in the program.
Click here for a guide from SCDSS on how to choose a childcare center.
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