CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - A Live 5 investigation shows, according to DSS records online, only about 25% of local home daycare providers are currently up-to-date with two-hour training required by law.
Kendra's Law was first passed in 2010 in honor of Kendra Gaddie, an infant whose convicted childcare provider shook her so hard, Kendra sustained brain injuries and permanent developmental problems.
Before that time, in-home daycare workers weren't required to have formal training.
For the past seven years, they've been required to get two hours of training under Kendra's Law.
Greenville mother Kathryn Martin says the education providers can get in training courses could save a child's life.
Unfortunately, she knows it personally.
"I want people to see my pain so they make the right decisions, and decisions I didn't know I was making wrong," Martin said.
Her daughter Kellie Rynn was three and a half months old when she died in a home daycare. Martin thought the provider was complying with Kendra's Law, but found out later she was not.
Investigators say in Kellie Rynn's case, Pamela Wood had 23 children in her home daycare when she should have had six at the most, as outlined in state law. The coroner said Kellie Rynn suffocated from unsafe bedding.
Wood ended up pleading guilty to child neglect, obstructing justice, and violating home daycare laws. She was sentenced to 18 months house arrest.
Martin doesn't feel as though justice was served.
"I grieve for myself but I also grieve for my son. Because he will never know Kellie Rynn. And will never get to know the experiences we had and how amazing she was. It makes me sad that our state is still struggling."
Home daycare providers can currently choose which training class(es) they want to participate in. Martin believes CPR and safe sleep should be mandatory.
KENDRA'S LAW COMPLIANCE
The Department of Social Services posts a profile of each provider online with a red or green flag at the top alerting parents whether the Kendra's Law training is complete. We went through all of our local providers. Most have a red flag alert right now.
Only about 48 out of 186 home daycare providers in Charleston, Berkeley, Dorchester, Georgetown, Colleton and Williamsburg county were current with their two-hour training at the end of April.
Out of 60 in Charleston County, only 9 are were listed as having the required training.
Green alert compliance was indicated in the following percentages of home daycares:
15% in Charleston
34% in Dorchester
39% in Berkeley
38% in Georgetown
30% in Colleton
17% in Williamsburg
We showed the information to Dr. Carole Swiecicki, Executive Director of the Dee Norton Children's Advocacy Center downtown Charleston. "I am astonished," she said of the low compliance numbers. "Many of the trainings are really important so it's discouraging."
Dr. Swiecicki also thinks the courses offered could be stronger. CPR is an option but not required. She'd like daycare providers to take classes about child abuse prevention and mandated reporting. "What are the red flags for abuse, what happens if I call, and knowing they as a childcare provider are mandated to report that," she said.
Martin was disappointed in the numbers, too. "I mean, this is important! I don't understand why people aren't doing it," she said.
DSS CAN'T ENFORCE COMPLIANCE
Not following Kendra's law is not an official violation against a registered home daycare, and the Department of Social Services doesn't currently shut them down for not getting the training.
DSS spokesperson Marilyn Matheus said, " required DSS to indicate on its website whether a family child care home was in compliance with the training requirements. However, there was no mechanism for the department to 'enforce' this requirement. Kendra's law did not allow DSS to take action against
a family home child care provider who did not obtain the necessary training."
So DSS can remind the providers, but they haven't been able to shut them down for training incompliance.
Last year, with Martin's urging, legislators updated Kendra's law. South Carolina home daycare workers will soon have to achieve ten hours of training beginning July 1, 2017.
DSS says it brings our state in line with others in the Southeast.
Georgia and Florida require ten hours of training for home daycares. North Carolina requires twelve hours every year, Virginia requires ten if the daycare takes state subsidies. Kentucky requires nine to fifteen hours depending on the type of facility.
TEN HOURS NOW REQUIRED
DSS recently posted a letter online and notified home daycare providers that training requirements will be ten hours starting in July.
The new law now gives DSS the power to "deny an application… deny an application for renewal.. or withdraw a statement of registration" if the operator fails to comply with the training requirements. So the Department will soon be able to shut down home daycares for training incompliance, but they do not have to shut them down.
It goes into effect July 1, 2017. In its letter to providers, DSS said not complying with the new ten hour training law "could affect the status of your registration or license."
"It is very important that you complete these hours each year before your registration or license expires," the letter emphasized.
Anyone working for the operator as a caregiver or emergency person is also required to have the ten hours of training.
CPR is not required; providers can choose whichever health and safety classes they want to take to achieve their training hours.
The examples of classes offered include: CPR and First Aid, Growth and Development, Nutrition, Health and Safety, SIDS/Shaken baby, Early Childhood, Guidance, or Infant/Toddler Development. They can also opt to take the DSS 26-hour online training course, which is free to providers and fulfills more than double the required training hours.
40 YEARS OF CHILD CARE
Diane Broughton runs a home daycare in Mt. Pleasant. She's been caring for children for forty years. She works alongside her daughter, Jodie Broughton. Both women wanted to talk about the importance of safety and training in any child care situation.
Jodie recently completed the 26-hours training course online. Her mother, however, has a red flag on her DSS profile indicating she is not in compliance with Kendra's Law right now.
"Well the challenge with me is getting out during the week," Diane said. "They don't really have a lot of weekend courses to take in Charleston or Mt. Pleasant. I don't want to close my daycare because my parents need to work. I'd even do it on a Sunday."
I talked to several other providers over the phone who said training is sometimes hard to attend, especially if it's out of town.
Marilyn Matheus with DSS said, "The South Carolina Child Care Resource and Referral Network offers 'Super Saturday' trainings in communities around the state to assist providers with obtaining appropriate training. Family child care home provider networks have been created throughout the state, which act as a support for providers to help them network with each other while learning topics through peer-to-peer trainings. These networks also help to encourage participation since family home providers tend to be more isolated than those employed in child care centers."
Diane says she knows the training is required by law and has decided to take the online course out of convenience even though it's more hours than required. "The training is good," Diane said.
LEGACY OF LIFE
Kathryn Martin hopes no one ever forgets her daughter, Kellie Rynn.
She and her husband created Kellie Rynn Academy, a program that offers scholarships to working families who need daycare. Families pay 25% and the Academy covers 75% of costs. "No one should have to settle for subpar child care just because they are low-income," she said.
Anyone can apply for scholarship help here.
Home daycares can opt to be licensed in South Carolina and meet stricter standards, but most are registered. Martin encourages all parents and grandparents to check DSS profiles for training compliance and violations.
"Ask about every violation. Call the DSS supervisor. Get documentation of CPR training and Kendra's Law compliance. Get the actual documentation for your records," she said.
An attorney from DSS responded to Carter Coyle's Freedom of Information Request last month, which requested documentation including seven years of compliance records since Kendra's law was implemented.
The response estimated the requested data to be returned mid-May.