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Wednesday, Feb 05 2014 11:02 PM

No excuse for lack of online child-care data

By The Bakersfield Californian

It's pretty sad that in a state home to Silicon Valley and tech giants like Apple and Google, our own state government can't seem to get its act in gear when it comes to technology.

The most famous was the debacle that erupted when California tried to electronically connect its court system. The project's costs ballooned to $2 billion, and the arrangement was ultimately killed in 2012.

Child care records are the latest case in point. The Center for Investigative Reporting revealed that California lags far behind other states in making records about child-care facilities available via the Internet. In many other states, parents can use the Internet to browse for information about local child care facilities. But California currently has no plan to put those records online.

Instead, the reports on some 48,000 day cares, preschools and after-school programs remain archived in government offices scattered around the state. Parents who want to access that information must call those offices and they can be read reports over the phone. If they want to view the reports themselves, they must make an appointment to go in and view them in person. In the case of Bakersfield residents, this would mean a trip to Fresno, since that's where the regional office is located, and during business hours, since this is a government agency after all.

That's pathetic. Parents today don't have time for that.

But beyond the inconvenience factor, there's another reason to put these records online: Studies have found it improves the quality of child care. That's the conclusion of studies done in other states, and the findings are so convincing the federal government is requiring states to put these records online in new regulations.

When Texas residents visit the web site containing online day care records, they're greeted by a message that says, "Don't be in the dark about child care! Before entrusting your child to a day care, check its state record."

If only it were so easy in California.

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