Safe And Secure In Day Care

Facilities Look At New Measures To Protect Their Child Care

Excerpts from the article by MONIQUE CURET and RENA HAVNER Staff Reporters - Today's Mobile Register

Crystal Oates is responsible for 65 children every day, and if she has to demand identification from every adult who walks through the door of her day care in order to protect the kids, she'll do it, she said.

With her day care located just five miles from another where a 5-year-old child was kidnapped last Monday, Oates said she is not taking any chances. Last week, she talked to security companies about installing video cameras, to parents about the door locks she already has in place and to children about what to do when a stranger approaches them.

Oates put her facility in lockdown mode just after 2 p.m. Monday, when she learned that Garth Harris had been abducted by a gunman who entered Calvary Tabernacle's Children's Learning Center in an attempt to rob it.

Joy Shorter, a worker at Calvary Tabernacle, told the man that the day care had no money. He tied her to a refrigerator with a telephone cord took the child with him.

Less than an hour later, police found the man in his green pickup truck in Spanish Fort. He fired at a Baldwin County sheriff's deputy and ran into a wooded area, according to officers, leaving the child unharmed in his truck. He surrendered minutes later.

The abducted child's mother, Cindy Harris, said Shorter did everything she possibly could do to protect the children under her watch. And local child-care providers said that the incident was not indicative of vulnerabilities in their security.

Uniform Guidelines

But more uniform guidelines would help heighten safety for all day cares, said Emily Kozyra, communications associate for Child Care Action Campaign, a national nonprofit group that advocates safe and affordable child care. She said that day care centers should at least have to conform to baseline standards for security.

Child care providers should maintain "absolute physical control" of their charges, Kozyra said. The building should have as many barriers to entry as possible, or a system that allows those inside to "buzz in" those outside.

Oates said she contacted a security company after the kidnapping incident to discuss installing video cameras in the foyer of her facility and outside. She is also installing meshed metal wire inside the windows, which will make it difficult for a robber to get in, even if he breaks the glass.

She added, "It won't be the prettiest thing, but hey, we're not going for beauty, we're going for safety."