DCF warns of unlicensed day cares

By Tarik Minor - Anchor, I-TEAM reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The Department of Children and Families is warning people in Jacksonville about unlicensed day care facilities that are running ads on Craigslist.

DCF investigators said they are seeing a lot of the ads popping up, and they said unlicensed workers put your child's safety at risk.

Several listings on Craigslist offer child care from people's homes for extremely low prices. DCF said it is monitoring Craigslist, but needs the public's help in finding the underground operations.

DCF spokesman John Harrell said while parents may save money using unlicensed day cares, their children's lives are not worth the risk.

"We have had children die in unlicensed facilities over the years because they didn't get that proper CPR or first-aid training," Harrell said. "There's also another big issue: They are having people work there without getting their background checked. They may have harmed children in the past."

Last year, 2-year-old Stephen Spurlock drowned at a Westside day care facility. The homeowner, Jan Buchanan, pleaded guilty to culpable negligence in the child's death. DCF investigators said she lacked the proper safety training to care for kids in her home.

Reputable licensed day care provider Scarlett Phomatthet, who opened her business legally in July, said DCF investigators inspect her house several times a year to ensure everyone knows how to properly take care of children.

"It's a series of good steps, but it's for a good reason," Phomatthet said. "You're basically putting your child's trust in the hands of someone when you're working. So you're putting all your trust in them."

If you know of an unlicensed day care provider in your neighborhood, you're asked to contact DCF. If you have any questions about a home day care provider and the status of its license or if it even has one, you can go to MyFLFamilies.com/daycare for background information.

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