“Watch Dog” group feels Indiana is lacking with child care safety plans

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – A “watch dog” organization is calling out Indiana and 20 other states when it comes to emergency preparedness and your children.

It’s called “Save the Children,” an organization that responds to disasters across the country It also tries to make sure government agencies are doing their best to protect children and it feels Indiana isn’t doing enough, specifically at day cares.

Even though Indiana’s Family and Social Services Administration showed us proof they are prepared, the group says it’s not enough.

An active shooter in a school, a tornado tearing apart its wall; they are some of the worst case scenarios.

The protocol to keep students safe in those situations in Indiana is a state mandate. But what if those situations happened in a day care?

Save the Children released its annual emergency preparedness state report card Tuesday.

States are measured on four points:

  1. A plan for evacuating children in child care
  2. A plan for reuniting families after a disaster
  3. A plan for children with disabilities and those with access and functional needs
  4. A multi-hazard plan for all K-12 schools

The group helped create those provisions seven years ago through the National Commission of Children and Disasters. The commission was created after Hurricane Katrina.

Indiana meets only two of the provisions including mandated hazard plans at schools and a reunification plan. 29 states met all four.

We brought that to attention of Indiana’s Family and Social Services Administration. A representative then showed us an exact plan outlining how day cares should be evacuated and how plans are in place for children with special needs.

But in order to get four check marks from Save the Children, those procedures have to be state mandates.

Only Indiana’s multi-hazard plan at schools and reunification plan are mandated.

“It’s just a recommended tool and that’s not good enough,” said Richard Bland, Policy Director for Save the Children.

“A lot of states are right when they say ‘we believe most child care providers use our template that is recommended and therefore we believe most kids are safe.’ That’s fine and that’s good, but that’s relying on the child care provider to do the right thing.”

Bland went on to say, “What we’ve found, particularly under-resourced child care providers or ones that are just skating by, they do what is required of them for licensing and no more.”

Despite Save the Children’s desire to have states make the plans mandates, the FSSA feels recommendations are enough and making it a mandate is up to lawmakers.

“You might have a lot of great child care providers in Indiana and they should be given credit for seeing a template like that and taking it even a step further and drilling all of those provisions,” said Bland. “But our responsibility as a kind of “watch dog” organization is to make sure that the state requires the minimum standards.”

Bland brought up how New Jersey only had recommendations, not state mandates on emergency preparedness at one point.

Then Hurricane Sandy happened, forcing lawmakers to realize not all day cares were following those recommendations.

This year, the state made those safety procedures mandatory.

We called two state senators today to see if there’s been a push to make Indiana like the 29 other states who made those procedures mandatory, but we haven’t heard back.

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