COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - It's a dilemma that many parents can face. How to find safe and reliable care programs for their kids.
That includes not only daycare facilities, which are regulated by the state but after school programs and summer programs which are not.
This comes as prosecutors in Richland County are continuing to pursue charges against an area afterschool program director for allegedly beating one of the children in his care late last year.
According to court records, 50-year-old Allen Smith has requested a jury trial. The longtime director of A&A Youth Community and Learning Center was charged with cruelty to children in December after allegedly hitting one of his students so hard that it left bruises on the child's body.
Officials with the South Carolina Department of Social Services have said in large part the agency has no oversight of after school programs.
However, there are resources that parents can turn to get advice on where to place their kids.
"We get to empower families to know what quality looks like and families demand that from programs," said Sherrie Dueno, who is the director of the South Carolina Child Care Resource and Referral Network.
The network, which is based at the University of South Carolina, offers quality coaches who work with hundreds of child care programs across the state. That includes after-school programs and summer camps.
"We provide child care programs an opportunity to increase the quality of their program," Dueno said. "And so many programs are interested in doing that. They want to increase their staff's professional development, they want to learn new ideas and best practices for children."
Dueno added that quality coaches with the network are trained to assess programs in a number of areas, including child safety guidelines, discipline practices, and educational instruction.
She says those are the same areas that parents need to look into about before enrolling their child in any program.
"Ask questions about how often your staff receives training," she said, "Ask questions: do you do background checks? Now, do you do state background checks or also do you do FBI fingerprinting? I mean you want to ask those type of questions of a program. How do you handle discipline issues that might come up? Ya know...what's your policies? So a parent's got to ask a lot of different questions."
The SC Child Care Resource and Referral Network offers training and consultation to child care programs free of charge. Parents looking for help finding a program can also get more information by contacting the agency.
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