A Mississippi News Now investigation reveals that 12 licensed childcare facilities in the tri-county area racked up critical violations of State Health Department standards in the past three months.
No such facilities were located in Madison County. One was located in Rankin County. Ten were in Jackson, and one was in Hinds County.
The violation that stands out at three of those daycares is children left unattended.
Children of the Future, near Brandon, is one of those daycares. The violation occurred in August, and the fine was $150. We tried to call the business twice before we paid a visit and spoke to a director.
"There were three one-year-olds in a room unattended with five-year-olds in another room, I guess the care provider was in that other room at the time?" we asked at the door.
"One of the teachers had gone out to lunch," said the director who declined to give her name. "I was the one attending the children. "The rooms are right... I can see in both rooms. At the time they were telling me there needed to be someone in the other room with the babies, right. We had two babies in the room. I could see the babies from where I was sitting."
The director offered to show us the room, but declined when we wanted to bring our news camera inside.
Building Blocks Christian Academy is in Jackson. Documents indicate that during an inspection in October, one caregiver was supervising two rooms, leaving eight 1-2 year olds unattended. The fine is $400.
We spoke to the owner, Sharon Nettles, by phone. She told us the children were resting at the time. The records also indicate that fact.
Nettles declined an on-camera interview.
A third daycare, also in Jackson, was cited in August for having one staff member supervising two rooms during rest period, and leaving four 3-year-olds unattended.
We paid them a visit, and ended up speaking to the owner by phone. We won't reveal the business because we've learned that the case and the $200 penalty is under appeal.
Inspectors at the Mississippi Department of Health strive to make un-announced visits to each of the roughly 1,600 licensed childcare facilities in the state twice a year.
"We don't have inspectors in the facility 24/7, so we have to look at the patterns we see when we do our inspections. That's why it's important for facilities to be compliant," said Jim Craig, Director of Health Protection at MSDH.
MSDH does not try to shut down non-compliant daycares, it assists in keeping them open and operating within guidelines.
"If there are fines involved, many times it helps them understand the significance of compliance," Craig tells us.
Another critical violation is failure to be able to provide letters of suitability for staff members. Letters of suitability are crucial because inspectors need to know that the care providers are not on the sex offender registry, and are suitable to be with children.
Un-licensed childcare facilities are not regulated by the Department of Health.
Click here for the MSDH guidelines on choosing a suitable daycare facility.