The death of 2-year-old Olivia Raspanti at a day care center on Long Island has underlined what New York officials say is the growing problem of unlicensed child care.
Raspanti choked and died at Carousel Day School, a 50-year-old after-school facility in Hicksville, N.Y., that had a solid reputation. The school ran legal summer camp, after-school and pre-K through first-grade programs, but its toddler program was unlicensed.
Carousel officials said they adhered to state safety regulations and that Raspanti’s death was unrelated to the missing license. County and state officials, however, say the death illustrates the persistent – and potentially growing – problem of unlicensed child care facilities.
In New York’s tightly regulated child care industry, day care centers must submit to a lengthy and costly licensing process. Fully licensed centers typically cost parents $1,200 a month, an expense some cannot afford. Advocates worry that as the recession deepens, parents will turn increasingly to cheaper, unregulated day care providers that have less supervision for children.
Another issue is that many parents do not know that providers need to be licensed. For those who do know, identifying unlicensed day care providers can be difficult. Carousel, for example, had a 50-year history.
Government inspectors say the problem is compounded by the fact that it is nearly impossible to be proactive in enforcing licensing standards. Although some counties do conduct some random inspections, the investigation process is driven largely by complaints.
“When we get complaints, we investigate them, but we don’t have a team that goes around knocking on doors to find underground child care centers,” Edward Borges, a spokesman for the New York Office of Children and Family Services, told Newsday. March 22, http://www.newsday.com.