LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - A WAVE 3 Troubleshooter investigation revealed gaping holes with the enforcement of a law meant to protect children in a life or death situation. Thousands of daycare centers across Kentucky are falling short. Troubleshooter Eric Flack spent months tracking the numbers, and took what he found to lawmakers in Frankfort, who say it's not just the daycare's, but the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services that dropped the ball.
When Khrystal Johnson drops her 2-year-old son Kaylan off at daycare, one thing matters most.
"Him being safe is obviously a main priority," Khrystal said.
A review by the WAVE 3 Troubleshooter Department found a law meant to keep Kaylan safe during an emergency hasn't been a priority for his daycare, or nearly 2,000 others across the state.
"You would like to think that they hear our constant message of know your risk and plan for emergencies," said MetroSafe executive Director Doug Hamilton. "Evidently they don't."
Lawmakers in Frankfort sent that message in 2011 when the Senate passed a law requiring daycare and child care centers have a written plan for evacuation during a fire, natural disaster, or anything else that could pose a risk to children.
A train derailment, chemical spill or plane crash would be the biggest threats in Louisville Metro according to Hamilton who is in charge of Emergency Operations in this area. But he said less than 25 out of 514 registered daycare's in Jefferson County have filed plans with his office. That's just 4 percent.
The WAVE 3 Troubleshooter Department tracked the numbers across Kentucky and the results were just as shocking. In Oldham County no daycares have complied with the emergency evacuation law. Same is true in Shelby County. In Hardin County a paltry 8% have filed plans. Statewide the number climbs to 12%. But that's still 1,975 daycare and child care centers in Kentucky that don't have emergency evacuation plans on file with their local emergency management agencies.
"That is not good," said State Senator Tom Buford, who sponsored the emergency evacuation child care law. "As a matter of fact that's not even a statement for horrible. That's really bad."
Buford doesn't just blame the daycares ignoring it. He's mad at the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services for letting them get away with it.
In response to our questions, the Cabinet for Health and Family Services sent us a series of newsletters mailed to licensed daycare centers warning of the new law and what daycare's had to do to comply.
The cabinet even came up with a blanket form daycares could fill out to send to Emergency Management Agencies. But when Troubleshooter Eric Flack pressed the cabinet for an interview about why it hadn't done more, it changed its tune. The cabinet sent an email claiming the daycare evacuation law didn't become effective until July 12. meaning daycare centers had until the end of the year to submit their plans.
That was news to Buford so the Troubleshooter Department did more research. It found out the effective date the Cabinet for Health and Family Services is talking about applies to an expansion of the current daycare evacuation law to covers in home facilities. State Representative Jim Gooch, the lawmaker behind that bill, said it was not meant to change Senator Buford's plan or when it goes into effect who said there is no question when the daycare's are required to submit the emergency evacuation plans.
"Now," Buford said.
Some daycare managers Troubleshooter Eric Flack spoke with said they have evacuation plans, just not on file with emergency management. Emergency management directors he spoke with said the Cabinet for Health and Family Services wouldn't know for sure because it isn't keeping tabs.
"I haven't been asked for that information because I assume as the licensing agent they know it." Hamilton said. Informed the Cabinet for Health and Family services was not tracking that information, Hamilton said, "Oh, that's not good."
Khrystal Johnson agrees. She said too much is at stake, "My child's safety."
After Troubleshooter Eric Flack showed State Senator Buford what he found, Buford wanted answers. He said Eric Freelander, Deputy Secretary for the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, was "very apologetic."
"He told me this is something that needs to be taken care of and that the cabinet is going to make a push to get this done," Buford said.
The Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services turned down repeated requests for on camera interview for this story.
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