ATLANTA - A local mother says she didn’t know her daughter’s day care didn’t have liability insurance until the child was injured while in its care. But what’s more upsetting for the mom is that liability insurance is not required according to Georgia law.
Georgia is one of 25 states that do not require day care centers to have liability insurance. Those that don't are supposed to give parents formal notice and post that fact prominently inside the center.
But the state agency that licenses day care centers says parents need to make sure they do their homework.
Shanell Sanders said she was satisfied with her day care center until a vehicle carrying her 10-year-old daughter and five other day care children was involved in an accident last year. When her daughter got home, she knew something was wrong.
“My daughter immediately comes in, lays on the couch. I’m like, ‘Where (have) you guys been? What took so long?’ And she says, ‘We were in an accident and my back (hurts), mommy,"” Sanders said.
An investigation by the state Department of Early Care and Learning discovered there were too many children in the vehicle, and the co-owner of the day care center admitted that she didn't report the accident to the state as required.
But Sanders disputes that.
“She was stiff. Like I tried to get her out of bed to go about our business as usual, and she was like, 'Mommy, I can't move,”" Sanders said.
Sanders said the real shock came when the center told her it had no liability insurance.
“I was floored. I didn't believe her,” said Sanders attorney, Lashonda Rogers.
Belcher discovered that Georgia does not require day care centers to have liability insurance. The head of the state agency that licenses providers says his office checks every center twice a year.
“We do talk to them about the liability insurance and the recommendation that they have it and if they do not have it we check for the posting that's required by law," said Bright from the Start Commissioner Bobby Cagle.
Cagle said centers without liability insurance are required to post a sign to notify parents.
Sanders said she never saw such a sign, but there is no evidence the state ever cited the center for failure to post the notice. The state also requires that parents sign a form acknowledging that their center does not have insurance.
“Have you been able to get any proof that your client signed it?” asked Belcher.
“Absolutely not,” Rogers said.
The center where Sanders sent her daughter is now closed and will soon become a personal care home with new owners. The former owners told Belcher that Sanders signed the acknowledgement, but they tell him the form is in storage, and it’s difficult to retrieve.
Meanwhile, Cagle warns parents to pay attention.
“We just think it’s very, very important families engage with providers to understand exactly what they're getting, and this is one component of it that I would definitely ask about,” Cagle said.
“The public needs to be aware that when you choose a day care you must ask the obvious these days: Do you have liability insurance?” Rogers said.
The state does not keep statistics on the number of centers which have insurance.
The Georgia Child Care Association says about 90 percent of its members centers have insurance. However, the association represents only 700 of some 6,000 providers in Georgia.