Katz successfully pushes city day care reforms

By Zach Patberg

Katz sponsored two of the four bills comprising the package, both of which focus on providing parents with enough information on any given day care center in order to make an educated decision on whether to send their child there. That includes posting summaries of inspection reports on the Internet and through the city's 311 phone system. In addition, all child care providers must hang signs outside their centers explaining how to obtain such information and have their most recent inspection report ready on request.”Through providing more information to parents on the quality of child care facilities, parents will be able to make more informed decisions on who they trust to care for their children,” Katz said following the City Council session at which the bills were passed Jan. 19.Her legislation includes components that will deny a permit to those child care centers with certain criminal convictions and requires the Health Department to report in detail on incidents involving a serious injury or death of a child.The other two bills, sponsored by Councilman Bill de Blasio (D-Brooklyn), chairman of the General Welfare Committee, call for quarterly reports from the city to the Council recording the number of valid licenses, inspections, violations and ordered closings issued among the 12,590 child care facilities operating in the city.The legislative package complements the Health Department's ongoing reform sweep of its child care bureau sparked by Matthew's death in August. According to department reports, health inspectors failed to properly inspect the Forest Hills center on Aug. 11 where the infant was found just hours after their visit smothered to death by toys piled on top of him by unattended toddlers.The tragedy led to a major overhaul that has included hiring a new Bureau of Day Care chief, adding additional inspectors and revising methods of monitoring facilities.Such initiatives, however, have thus far only been applicable within city boundaries. Katz said the Council's next fight was to “convince the state to make these policies statewide.” Although the city handles all the inspections of state agencies, it currently uses a separate database that does not provide the public with the same breadth of crucial information on their centers that the Council's new legislation would require.City leaders said their goal now was to put pressure on the state Legislature to submit to a unified database that would give parents the same information throughout New York.”I can't fathom any situation where it's better for parents not to know,” Katz said.State representatives testified at last week's Council session that such collaborative efforts were being put in place, but few specifics were provided.A statement read by Matthew's parents, Vincent and Maria Perilli, at the meeting said “we are encouraged to see that this legislation is being passed to help reform the day-care system, and we hope that it will be adopted into state law.””It is heartening to think that some good may come of Matthew's death,” they added.The package passed by the Council now awaits the mayor's signature.Reach reporter Zach Patberg by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 155.

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