After Oregon regulators failed to alert parents that their children were in imminent danger at a daycare in Southeast Portland, Gov. Kate Brown called on the state’s Early Learning Division to create a more robust vetting process for child care providers coming from a different state.
Oregon child care regulators believed children at Sunnyside Sprouts daycare were being mistreated. So they shut the daycare down last month. But they didn’t reach out directly to the parents to tell them why.
The state's suspension order against Melinda Hagen, the woman who owns Sunnyside Sprouts, noted licensing staff was worried children were being left unsupervised in the basement for hours and that they were being deprived of food as a means of punishment. A photo showed a 1-year-old tied up and confined to a crib. The child's arms were bound to their body with a blanket.
Since the state didn't directly communicate with the parents initially, some of the families continued to place their children in Hagen's care after the state's suspension order.
Hagen had also been operating illegally in the state for years and her previous daycare in California had been shut down for allegedly neglecting children.
Brown’s directive, issued Monday, calls on the Early Learning Division to strengthen the vetting process for out-of-state providers and to alert parents if a facility's legal status ever changes.
Currently, when a provider moves to Oregon from another state and opens a daycare, Oregon relies on providers to self-report any previous problems.
“The [Early Learning Systems Division] must start reviewing licensing histories from other states before granting a license to someone who previously had been licensed in another state,” Brown’s letter states.
The governor also calls on the state to review all current provider's applications who moved from another state. Additionally, Brown said the state must make a greater effort to notify families when they discover a daycare is operating illegally without a license. And if the state finds any serious issues, the facility must alert the families. Facilities are also now required to post information about the state's child care safety portal at their business.
Brown's letter follows reporting on Sunnyside Sprouts from OPB and The Oregonian/OregonLive.
The state’s Office of Child Care is charged with regulating about 4,200 daycares statewide that serve more than 100,000 children.
“With nearly a quarter of infants and toddlers and half of preschoolers in Oregon served in licensed child care centers, we need to do everything we can to ensure these children are safe,” Brown’s letter reads.
After a series of stories in The Oregonian/OregonLive last summer, which showed the state agency struggles to oversee child care facilities and poses an "elevated risk for major incidents of child harm," state officials said they would improve.
Hagen had been operating illegally in the state for years, according to interviews with parents and state documents. Many parents were never aware their child care center — which cost $1,740 a month for five days a week of coverage — was unlicensed. Child care providers should have their license posted somewhere in the facility so parents can see it, according to state officials.
Dan Holmes, one of the parents who sent his children to the facility, said it's encouraging to know the issue has the attention of the governor.