Local mother wants stronger child care oversight

Local mother wants stronger child care oversight
(Source: Gray News)

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Many working parents depend on child care year round, especially in the summer months while school is out.

But as we told you a week ago in a Live 5 Investigation, many camps and short child care programs are not regulated.

One mom says she knows all too well how scary it can be to have no complaint process to follow.

Shena Fordham is a single, working mom and relied on child care and after school camps, until she was bathing her son one night and he started splashing her with water.

“I said, ‘Stop splashing with water- turn and put your arms up so I can wash you.’ And he said, ‘Like the teacher?’ What do you mean like the teacher? And he said, ‘Like when she told me to turn around to spank me.’”

She realized her son was talking about a teacher at his after school camp program.

“He said basically she took him the bathroom, told him to put his arms up and turn around, took the belt off from her waist and spanked him,” Shena said."My first thought? I was going over there and cut her behind. But I wanted to be a better example for my son."

She took him to be evaluated by the child advocacy center, called the police and notified DSS.

She said she was shocked when DSS explained there wasn’t much they could do.

“They said that she was not obligated to be registered because she operated less than four hours a day. That’s shocking! I thought that because they had children in there, you’re supposed to get checked!”

In South Carolina, programs operating only a few hours – and all summer camps – are not currently regulated by DSS.

It’s something Rep. Shannon Erickson is trying to change, as she told us in our original story.

“We don’t know how many programs there are out there actually offering those services,” she said.

“Everybody who’s taking care of children in the community needs to be licensed or registered. It’s necessary,” Shena said.

The caregiver accused of beating Shena’s son with a belt was arrested but never convicted, Shena said, because her son was young and the only witness.

That’s why we are not reporting the name of the woman arrested or the program.

But the facility did shut down, Shena said.

A few years later, Shena says her son is okay now, but she still can’t trust anyone around him.

“I think about it all the time, and I’m very protective,” she said.

The Dee Norton Child Advocacy Center suggests parents ask about background checks, the DSS abuse registry, sex offender registry and employee training.

“Even if it’s only a week, that’s a week out of that child’s life that has potential to impact them the rest of their life,” said Dr. Carole Swiecicki, executive director of the Dee Norton Child Advocacy Center.

Swiecicki says parents have every right to ask child care workers what steps they take to prevent physical and sexual abuse.

“I want parents to know they should be asking. Asking those hard questions. Don’t assume right now [the state is checking],” said Rep. Erickson.

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