Public Policy Forum Blog

Online access to state inspections of child care providers

If you're worried about your child getting food poisoning from their favorite fast food joint, it's easy enough for citizens of southeastern Wisconsin to visit the web and get information on restaurant inspections.

If your worried about your child's health and safety when at day care, however, you're out of luck.

The results of state child care inspections and investigated complaints are not available online and can only be obtained with a special request, leaving most parents in our region in the dark.

Parents in southwestern Wisconsin have it easier. There, the Wisconsin State Journal annually reviews the child care inspection files for the providers in their region and reports which providers have been fined, and why. This year they have compiled the results from their past ten annual reviews and created an online searchable database. Since that database went live on Feb. 17, it has had more than 12,000 hits.

While a legitimate role of the media is to shed light on the workings of government, citizens should not have to rely on their local paper to provide this type of information. The purpose of government inspections of child care providers is to ensure safety and prevent fraud, to the benefit of children, parents, and taxpayers. Perhaps southwestern Wisconsin's interest in the State Journal's database will result in greater transparency for the entire state.

UPDATE: A Channel 4 News story on lack of access to child care licensing records notes the difficulty parents have in obtaining this information. The reporters were unable to get anyone from the Department of Health and Family Services to comment on the record.

Anneliese Dickman