KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Missouri Governor Mike Parson is forming a new task force to study the state’s childcare regulations. It comes on the heels of a horrific case of abuse in St. Louis, where a child is seen on video being dragged and thrown against a cabinet.
Some in the daycare industry believe there is at least one significant, but simple change, that could help keep kids safe.
Kristina Mayfield is a mother of two. Before staying at home with her kids, she spent several years working in daycare.
“I wanted to work with kids just to be that light for them,” Mayfield said.
Mayfield says she witnessed another teacher mistreating kids at her last job. She believes most daycare workers don’t get enough training to know how to work with kids, especially when things get tough.
“When you go in, they are supposed to train you but I never got that at either one of the daycares I worked at,” she said.
Missouri law says all staff providing direct child care are supposed to undergo an online basic health and safety class and some additional annual trainings.
The state does routine and unannounced inspections of daycare centers, and when inspectors find issues, facilities have to fix them to keep their license in good standing.
“It protects the children. It protects the center. It protects families. So those things are really important that those kinds of things stay in place,” said Deborah Mann, director of Emmanuel Family and Child Development Center in Kansas City.
Mann’s worked in childcare more than 30 years. She says one positive change Missouri’s recently made is requiring daycare workers to undergo pre-employment background checks and fingerprinting.
“Fingerprints can tell you everything about a person so that really creates a sense of security for before you hire someone. You know if there`s anything you may be hiding,” said Mann.
While her facility’s employees go through tons of training beyond what’s state mandated, she agrees more stringent classes to help all teachers deal with classroom issues could help keep kids safe.
“When you train your teachers, even if children’s behavior is inappropriate, they know how to work with it,” Mann said.
But she admits providing better training and ongoing resources for daycare teachers requires funding, and she hopes the governor’s new child care working group will consider ways to help ensure every Missouri family has access to safe and quality care.
Experts also hope the state might consider stricter penalties against childcare workers and facilities where there has been proven abuse.
The governor’s child care working group is expected to make its recommendations in June.