Report: Feds find health, safety violations at AZ daycares

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By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

PHOENIX -- The federal government put more than $5 billion into a Childcare and Development Fund, and about a third of daycare centers in Arizona receive money. To make sure families are getting what the government paid for, they visited three daycares in our state - one in Phoenix, one in Avondale and one in Tucson. What they found was startling.

Nearly 2,500 daycares are licensed with the Arizona Department of Health Services, and state employees are supposed to show up to each one unannounced once a year. But the Office of Inspector General found the three random centers they inspected in 2013 all had major violations, like electrical cords within reach of kids, powerful cleaning supplies in a bucket on the floor and sleeping mats stored next to a toilet in a bathroom.

"There's going to be a lot of fecal contamination, coliform, a lot of bacteria in that toilet," said Annissa Furr, a microbiologist, mother and co-founder of Kids Play Safe, an organization that cleaned up playgrounds in fast-food restaurants. "When it's flushed, it's sort of kicking up all that bacteria."

In the report, she saw inspectors also found medication in unlocked drawers, even a screwdriver in a van used to transport kids.

"It's a scary thing to drop a child off anyway, but you have this veil of assumption that they're being taken care of and being protected," Furr said.

The names of the three facilities have yet to be released.

Furr said if three out of three facilities had problems of this magnitude, she fears it could be a widespread problem and that the state needs to show up unannounced more often.

"I don't think once a year is enough, especially when you're talking about youngest population of children," Furr said.

Inspectors also found employees at two of the three facilities either had falsified or expired fingerprint clearance cards.

It is unknown if anyone has been back to these facilities since the initial inspection.

Upon reaching out to the Department of Health Tuesday afternoon, they said they need more time to review the report before they can comment.