State eyes hot-car cau­tions

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NORTHWEST ARKANSAS - BRIAN FANNEY

State reg­u­la­tors are crack­ing down on vi­o­la­tors of child care laws fol­low­ing the death of a child at a fa­cil­ity run by a state law­maker’s com­pany.

State em­ploy­ees will ob­serve the load­ing and un­load­ing of chil­dren at ev­ery fa­cil­ity that of­fers trans­porta­tion, David Griffin, as­so­ciate di­rec­tor of the Li­cens­ing and Qual­ity Ac­cred­i­ta­tion Unit in the Divi­sion of Child Care and Early Child­hood Education, told a leg­isla­tive panel Mon­day.

If the state in­spec­tors — who make three unan­nounced vis­its to child care fa­cil­i­ties an­nu­ally — miss the act of trans­porta­tion, they will make an­other visit, Griffin told the Joint Per­for­mance Re­view com­mit­tee at the Capi­tol.

Like­wise, Tonya Wil­liams, di­rec­tor of the Divi­sion of Child Care and Early Child­hood Education, told law­mak­ers that her agency would be pay­ing close at­ten­tion to alarm sys­tems de­signed to pre­vent chil­dren from be­ing left in a van.

A law passed in 2005 in the wake of an­other child’s death re­quired but­tons be placed in the back of child care vans. The idea is that a child care worker would need to walk to the back of the van — check­ing all of the seats — to press the but­ton and de­ac­ti­vate the alarm.

“They’re re­quired to walk through it,” Griffin said. “We’ve had cases re­ported, and we’ve dealt with those, where a van driver would ask a child at the back of van to turn the alarm off. That’s not al­lowed. We’ve had cases where they’ve tried to stand on the back bumper of the van and reach through and turn it off.”

In re­sponse to a ques­tion from Sen. Missy Irvin, R- Moun­tain View, Griffin said some child care cen­ters have had “dis­abled” sys­tems, though he said it’s hard to say whether that was an in­ten­tional act or a break­down.

Rep. Mark Low­ery, R-Maumelle, asked if there was any tech­no­log­i­cal solution — in­de­pen­dent from “hu­man na­ture” — to en­sure that chil­dren are re­moved from a van. He men­tioned ID cards with bar codes or elec­tronic child track­ing sys­tems as pos­si­bil­i­ties.

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