Center complaints are public record

The Carson City Environmental Health Department, which governs the 1,184 licensed child-care slots in the city, makes available to the public any complaints a center has received within the past two years.

"Every single complaint that makes it into my office is investigated and recorded," said Dustin Boothe, who oversees day-care regulation for the Environmental Health Department.

"If parents want to look at a file on a particular place, they can come down and look at it."

They won't find many, however. The average has been about one complaint a year per day-care provider.

Last year, he investigated 31 complaints. In 2000, the number was 29 and the year before there were 13 complaints.

He said the complaints can range from no towels in the bathroom to improper food storage. Complaints of physical or sexual abuse or any other criminal activity are immediately reported to the sheriff's department.

Boothe enforces the regulations which govern the 29 licensed facilities in Carson City. According to the 2000 Census, there were 3,289 children in Carson City under the age of 5.

Boothe said the files contain only the complaint and investigation and do not identify the complainant.

"Most the time I don't get any complaints until (the family) has left the center and are long gone," he said.

There is no set number of complaints a center can receive before being shut down. Boothe said he has never personally revoked the license on a Carson City center. If his office receives a complaint -- depending on the nature of it -- he goes to the center unannounced and listens to the "other side" of the story before deciding if corrective action is needed.

"Unfortunately, the parents see a lot more than I do, so sometimes a complaint can't be substantiated," Boothe said.

If it is substantiated the licensee is given a time limit to correct the problem, which Boothe reinvestigates on a follow-up visit.

Centers are also subjected to at least two inspections per year and random visits.

The health department inspects the locations and a representative from the fire department also inspects to ensure the facility meets fire codes.

Boothe said in addition to regulating the licensed facilities, he also responds to complaints of illegal day cares in the city.

"Since I haven't licensed them, I don't have jurisdiction to go in except for when they have too many children," he said.

Boothe said those "illegal" day-care providers are given 24 to 48 hours to reduce the number of children. "I will monitor them for a time to make sure they are doing that," he said. If the offenders continue to ignore the regulations they can be fined.

To provide day care, providers need both a business license and day-care license.

"If you are being paid for watching one child you need a business license because you're conducting business in Carson City. You don't need a child-care license until you are watching five or more -- including your own," Boothe said.

"The way the law is, a birthday party can be construed as an illegal child-care situation," he said.


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