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Team formed to modernize childcare policy

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by Lannie Walker

Guam - KUAM News sat down with representatives from the Department of Public Health who are part of a team formed to update the rules and regulations governing the island's daycare facilities. It's the first time such rules and regulations will be updated in more than three decades. 

These five women represent the frontline in ensuring Guam's daycares are places where parents can leave their children and maintain a peace of mind. Terry Catahay, a social services supervisor, said, "When we issue a license that is an assurance to parents you are putting a child in a center that has qualified personnel and for the most part has quality care."  She's part of the team working to enforce standards in childcare centers. One step in doing that is making sure the providers know exactly what is expected of them.

She says the last guidelines where issued in 1978, and are just now being updated.

Carmen Babauta is the program coordinator for the Childcare and Development Fund and agrees new guidelines are crucial, adding, "The Childcare Program never really had childcare provider handbook working closely with licensure." Babauta oversees $3.7 million in federal funds to provide assistance to Guam's daycare centers.

"If there is a suspension they are still reaching our funds due to services rendered to children," says Babauta, clarifying if a center is closed and does not provide services for a month they will not be paid for that time.

Making sure standards are met so closures aren't necessary is where Rosanna Rabago, an environmental health specialist supervisor, comes in.  "We also are responsible for issuance of sanitary permit which authorizes facilities to operate," she explained.  Rabago checks that facilities are safe and clean, with no insect or rodent harborage, and have proper restroom amenities.

"We are actually mandated to go and conduct quarterly inspections so it's at least four times a year minimum," she said.

Sarah Senior is a licensing social worker, in charge of making sure employees at daycare centers have the required health and police clearances.  She told KUAM News, "I also look for the safety of and health indicators such as how staff interacts with children how babies are attended to the ratio make sure they are meeting the ratio for each age group."  She says she is required to visit all of Guam's 48 licensed day cares once a year.

Linda Susuico, Public Health's chief human services administrator says daycare centers that didn't make the grade, like ABC123 in Dededo, will still be given a second chance.  "It's not a necessarily automatic close because they work together to make sure safety of children is maintained," she said.  Susuico added that the team is stepping up measures to ensure all daycare centers are in compliance.

"'Cause we don't want to shut down centers but it wouldn't be at the cost of a child life we wouldn't put any child at risk," she said.

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