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Day Care Report: Watching out for local kids

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Florida Department of Children and Families cited several local day cares recently whose staff either left children alone or didn't have enough supervision for the amount of children being cared for.

DCF sends counselors to local day cares to make sure they're following the rules to help prevent incidents like children wandering away from facilities or being left alone during an emergency.

Little Precious Hearts Daycare on West 48th Street landed a spot on the News4Jax Day Care Report Card after a counselor "observed a staff member leaving children alone and unsupervised to answer the front door."

According to the report, the children ranged from 3 years old to school-aged. The report went on to say the teacher immediately returned to the classroom, which was more than 17 feet from the door.

DCF counselors said leaving children alone is a no-no. A child could get hurt or even wander out of the room.

"Keeping eyes on them, actively watching them and, most importantly, being in the same room, then you're going to greatly reduce the chance of a child getting free," DCF spokesman John Harrell said.

Little Precious Hearts Daycare was also cited for having several rooms with peeling paint, falling and stained ceiling tiles, several pieces of trash on the playground, and for not maintaining a protective surface under the swing set.

The day care submitted a plan of action on how the facility was going to prevent future supervision violations and passed its follow-up inspection.

Another day care that missed the mark during its recent inspection is Little Smiles Learning Academy on Leonid Road. A counselor "saw 18 children on the playground with only two staff members." To be in compliance, the day care needed a ratio of four kids for every staff member because the kids ranged from infants to school-aged.

"If you've got a sudden incident with a child, let's say the child starts choking, or horseplay, you want to make sure you have the proper ratio of employees watching these children at all times," Harrell said.

During the inspection, the day care moved some of the children inside and had another staff member supervise the playground area.

Little Smiles Learning Academy was also cited for using bug spray on all of the children during outside play time without written parental consent, not properly labeling drinking cups, and for not properly maintaining the protective surface under the slides on the playground.

Little Smiles passed a follow-up inspection.

Last on the day care report card is Around the Clock Kid Care and Preschool on Blanding Boulevard. According to the report, "a teacher left the facility during nap time and 21 2- to 4-year-olds were alone with only one staff member." The teacher later returned from lunch, putting the day care back in compliance with DCF regulations.

"When you're talking about supervision issues, we definitely want to talk to the facility and say, 'Look, here's the problem ... what's your plan to fix this?'" Harrell said. "'What will you do differently moving forward so you can be in compliance and respond quickly in case of an emergency.'"

Around the Clock was also cited after a counselor observed a kitchenette toy was filled one-third with water from a dripping air conditioner pipe. The provider removed the toy from the day care and became compliant.

Around the Clock did not have to go through a follow-up inspection

Each week, News4Jax will review reports provided by DCF. To report concerns or complaints about a child care facility, call 904-485-9564.

You can also go to http://www.myflfamilies.com/service-programs/child-care/parent-resources and select "Provider Search" to search for recent inspections for any local child care facility.