South Carolina regulators would be able to make surprise visits to some home day cares under a bill making its way through the Statehouse.
But it remains a long shot to become law with only two days remaining in the regular legislative session.
Senators say it’s part of an effort to crack down on a few small home day care operators who are creating an unsafe environment for children in their care. The legislation comes after a three-month-old child died at a Greenville County home day care in March. First responders found 14 children being hidden in the basement and a loaded gun in the home.
The state Department of Social Services separates nonreligious child care facilities into three categories: child care centers (13 or more children), group child care homes (7-12 children), and family child care homes (6 children or fewer and run out of the owner’s home). Each has its own set of regulations, with family child care homes being the least stringent. A person seeking to run these small operations out of their residence must submit to a background check and get permission from their local zoning board.
State law currently allows DSS to make unannounced visits no more than once per year to other child care facilities, but not to those operated out of a residence. An exception allows the agency to check on a home if it receives a complaint.
But an amendment proposed on the Senate floor by Sen. Katrina Shealy, R-Lexington, Sen. Larry Martin, R-Pickens, and Sen. Ross Turner, R-Greenville, would change that and give inspectors the power to revoke a registration or license if serious violations were found.
Martin said he wants to make sure that children are safe in these smaller homes. “The biggest reason for doing this is to ensure that (these operators) are not keeping two dozen children, as opposed to the six they’re allowed,” he said on the Senate floor Tuesday.
Martin said he hopes the surprise visits will help catch violations before a situation becomes tragic.
The amendment was tacked on to a separate bill that would clarify childcare employees can only give medications to minors with parental permission, unless there is an emergency. Senators voted unanimously for the bill’s second reading Tuesday, but it needs another vote in both the Senate and House to become law this year. That is extremely unlikely unless members of both bodies offer unanimous support.