Health & Safety Concerns about Daycare

Parent Q&A

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  • I take my kids to the playground near our home multiple mornings a week. Several neighborhood daycares utilize the playground as well. One daycare in particular does not pay appropriate attention to their children. The kids are toddlers (between 1-2 yrs), and the ratio is 1 caregiver: 3 kids, which is appropriate for their age group.

    Over the past 6 months or so, I’ve seen kids wander off from the group: once, a child made it to the sidewalk outside the park before a daycare caregiver picked him up; another time another family’s nanny brought a kid back to the group (no one appeared to be aware he was gone). They allow the kids to climb the park structures, and I’ve seen a few near falls; once, another family’s nanny had to take one of the kids down because he looked like he was going to fall. We’ve had to tell the daycare caregivers that one of the kids put a rock / sand in their mouth. 

    My question is: do I do anything? If so, what? I’d like to remain anonymous since we see this group multiple times a week; I also don’t want to meddle, but I’m worried that sooner or later something serious is going to happen to one of these kids. Thanks.

    Gosh, my kids preschool takes them to the park on Fridays, and this post makes me want to know if this could be his school. So that said, yes, you should do something. 

    Couple of options- find out the daycare name if you don’t already. You could call and speak to the owner, who may or may not be on site, and let them know your concerns. If you don’t think that will work, you can do an anonymous online complaint with the state licensing board. They are required to investigate. Just provide as much detail as you possibly can. 

    You can always find out the daycare's community care licensing (CCL) facility number and contact CCL to report an anonymous complaint. 

    Hi - I think it's important that you share what you've observed by filing a complaint with the state. As a parent with a child in daycare, I would really want to know if something like this was happening. I think you would be doing parents and these kids a huge service. 

    If you know the name of the daycare, you can look up their license here: and submit an anonymous complaint by emailing letusno [at]

    You might also add an anonymous review on the daycare's BPN listing. 

    If it were your child, you would want someone to speak up and protect, and prevent a child from getting seriously hurt, run over, or kidnapped. Do the responsible thing. Just takes a phone call to licensing. (510) 622-2602.

    I don't have any great ideas, but if my kid were in this daycare, I would absolutely want to know that this was happening. Is there a way to figure out which daycare it is and post something on a mom's group asking people to message you? FWIW, my nanny has reported a daycare group like this at a park near us in the northwest Berkeley/Albany area... I wonder if it's the same one. She didn't see any physical danger, though, just negligent teachers.

Archived Q&A and Reviews



Worried about the safety of daycare's neighborhood

June 2009

I'm struggling with various waves of fear/anxiety about the violence in S. Berkeley where my toddler will be attending day care this coming fall. I chose the daycare because it was conveniently located on the way to work, it came highly recommended by many people, and I felt really comfortable with it. I know she will love it and be well taken care of. I tend a bit toward anxiety, and my new source of anxiety is imagining my daughter getting killed in a drive-by shooting while her daycare is taking a walk to the park (something they do periodically). This fear has been heightened by the recent shooting of two children in their homes a few blocks away. For the record, I've left my child in a nanny share this past year (in a different neighborhood), so I don't think this is so much about fear of leaving her. I used to live in S. Berkeley, and I still don't hesitate to drive or bike through there. I work in an even sketchier neighborhood in Oakland. And I try to remind myself that there are probably more pressing dangers (auto accidents). But for some reason, I'm still struggling with this. Is this fear well-founded? Any advice how I can get over it? I wonder if the fear will dissipate once the daycare becomes part of our daily routine, or if each new incident of violence will just bring it back. Any thoughts on this? anxious mother

My two children (ages 1 1/2 and 4) have attended day care /preschool in South Berkeley since the oldest was six months old. I also work with high school students that primarily live in this area. I'm not sure that I have advice, but want to acknowledge that I have also felt uneasy a few times during the past few months due to the violence/tension between South Berkeley/North Oakland. However, I am also reassured by the incredible nurturing and care that my children receive, and this outweighs my anxiety. I also realize through my work with families living in the neighborhood that overall it is a community of hardworking people also concerned about the well being and safety of their families. I think you may be right- once the day care situation becomes part of your daily routine, your anxiety may decrease. Thought About it Too

Hi there! Is your gut telling you something? Slow down and listen. By the way, I don't know the age of your kid, but there are a few fabulous day care/ pre-schools out there...Happy Baby, Greenhouse, Montessori Family School are all places that I and my friends have had great experiences with...Maybe you feel like you'd rather have a nannyshare for a little one? Listen to your gut

Not so sure that one's irrational. No way would I leave my child at a daycare if I felt the neighborhood was unsafe. Call Bananas and get referrals for other daycares, there are hundreds in the East Bay. Look for one near your home instead, if you feel more comfortable in your home neighborhood. There are too many other options out there to feel anxious, IMO

Sandbox at daycare gives off a lot of dust

April 2008

The sand in the sandbox at my daughter's preschool gives off a lot of dust. When children walk in the sandbox, or when the teachers sweep the sand off of the surrounding pavement, clouds of dust rise up. I am worried about the kids inhaling the dust. The sand is supposedly ''#1 Plaster Sand'' from Graniterock in Santa Cruz. Their website says the sand is to be used for bedding sand and for mortar mixes for masonry. Is this bad? concerned UC parent

I think they need play sand, not plaster sand! And even then, there are degrees of safety. From ''In home sandboxes, avoid ''all-purpose'' sand, which has not been washed to screen out breathable particles. The Safe Sand Company sells asbestos- and silica-free sand (, 415-971-1776). Replace sand regularly to avoid contamination.'' Sandy

From what you describe, it sounds like the sand should be replaced with play sand (coarser and cleaner). Sand is pretty inexpensive, so it shouldn't cost much to get the appropriate kind and get rid of the dusty, fine stuff currently in the play yard. Play sand is available from many local sources, including American Soil, OSH & Home Depot. Breathing lots of dust on a regular basis is not good. another mom

I share your concern about the sandbox at the daycare center. Many sands in California are derived from serpentine-bearing rock. In other words, they contain asbestos, in addition to the usual silicaceous minerals. None of this is good for human lungs.

In my opinion, the dust is MUCH more dangerous than pesticides, non-organic produce, plasticizers, or the other things which many Berkeley residents worry about. George

Yikes! You don't want your child playing in that sand. Sandboxes for children should only use ''Play'' sand. I'd have the preschool change the sand out asap! anon

I think your instincts (and nose) are right--get online and find the right grade of sand, I think there is a local company that provides sand, and give the info to the daycare. A lot of times this kind of thing can be easily solved if you give them the info and make it easy to change the sand to a different grade made for sandboxes. SHC

It's probably, probably, probably nothing to worry about. And yet, I have a background in ceramics, and sand is made of silica, silica is glass... one of the dangers in ceramics is inhaling silica dust -- not good for the lungs. If it were me, I'd call the company and find out the exact make-up of the sand, then take that info, plus a sample to the ceramics department at Berkeley, and have some prof give his or her opinion about whether or not it's dangerous. Dave

All sand is a carcinogenic when inhaled, the bags at the store all have a caution statment on them about that, even fresh beach sand. The best thing to do is minimize dust. Ie, remind kids to keep dust down and spraying with water daily if possible. Good luck! lisa

You should definitely talk to the preschool about the composition of the sand they're using. Sand is composed of silica, which is a carcinogen when inhaled, and the finer the grains, the more likely it is to be inhaled. FYI, exposing people to a carcingen like this is a violation of Proposition 65, the California statute that requires warning about exposures to carcinogens and reproductive toxins (you've probably seen the signs in gas stations and parking garages). If the preschool is resistent, I'd make sure they know about Prop. 65 and the army of private enforcers out there. don't let your kids inhale that stuff

26-mo-old ran out of the building on her own

Sept 2004

This morning, something happened in my 26 months old daughter's daycare that worries me very much. My partner dropped her off, she was really upset he would leave, he helped her getting comfortable, and finally she said him good bye. (Typically, drop offs are not fun, but acceptable for my daugher, but there are exceptions.) When he was already at the gate to the street, she came running screaming out of the building. She must have left the room, crossed the hallway, went through the entrance door, climbed up a flight of stairs, and run between the toddler and the baby playground into the bigger kids playground/parking lot where my partner heard her while walking through the main gate to the street. He brought her back to her room to see teachers being surprised at his reappearance - they had not noticed she had run away before he brought her back. I don't know if he planned to say anything to them and what, but he didn't get to it, as the first thing was they asking him if he had told her that she's not supposed to leave the room. While I agree that she has to know this, his reaction to the sudden appearance of his desparately crying daughter had not been to give her instructions but to give her comfort. She is not a child who has ever tried to run away from us secretely, only this kind of ''I run, will you run after me'' game. Then the head teacher developed some theories about her having more difficulties with daycare these days, because she started using the potty there. She's had a lot of pee accidents there, while she's been essentially trained at home for a while. Then her suggestion to put her back in diapers now. When asked about diapers, my daughter announced she wanted to go pee. She went with daddy to the potty area, sat down and peed immediately. While I first thought, the potty training discussion is just distracting from the problem, I realize that it probably seems to be related. She doesn't seem to feel comfortable telling the teachers there when she has to go pee and desparately want one of us to help her instead. So that surely has to be addressed on its own right. However, there are hundreds of other potential reasons for children to escape from daycare. In my view, the bottom line is, that they have to make sure young children can not leave on their own. I'm very concerned about her running out and trying to get home or to the park or wherever she'd like to go by herself. She'd try to find the way as she knows the neighborhood and she's used to walk home with us, but she'd surely get lost and not unlikely get killed by a car. There's a main traffic street very close to the school, and on the way to the park. The gate to the street was closed this morning, but it often is not during these drop of times, because some parents want to drive into the school yard (=older toddler/ big kids play area) for dropping of their children. I'm worried now, that they won't make sure she does not run away again. Why didn't they react with concern that they had not even noticed her escape? Why did they start to put the responsibility on us with asking if we had told her she's not supposed to run out the school? She is just over 2 years old, how can they count on her following rules when it's about something as dangerous as running away? Why did they start to mix up the problem with her school potty training, can't potty trained children run away as well? My partner was really overwelmed by the situation and doesn't feel like he reacted to the teachers' (non-)actions and well. So, we'd like to speak about this with them again. I already went through a bunch of scenarios this morning including getting her out of the school immediately... I dont' want to react hysterically, but I'm very worried. I'd like to hear what other think. Also, I'd appreciate any suggestions on how to approach this topic with the daycare people. Making them angry at me may result in resentments against my child as well. Who to talk to, when, with your child around or making an appointment without the child? It's not obvious, from a practical point of view, how, when and where to speak to the daycare teachers when a problem arises. Thank you very much for any kind of help. J.

Your post really concerned me. I think you should get your child out of that daycare asap. The daycare should have NO EXCUSE for your child escaping like that, none. Bottom line is that they should have prevented that from happening. It worries me that it happened unnoticed by them. anon

Hello, From what you describe, I recognize the school. My son graduated from there to Kindergarten, and my daughter is still attending (been there since she was three months old). While I find it unacceptable and inexcusable that your daugther escaped the room and her teachers did not notice, and they probably had the very reproachable, but human, reaction of trying to deflect blame, please do not give up on the school. Talk with the director. She is a very approachable person which will listen to your concerns and will make sure that this does not happen again (I am sure that she will take this very seriously). The director is an exceptional person, sweet and caring, who knows all the children by first name. She is also a well-known and respected expert on child development. Talk to other parents about your concerns, try to attend -- if you can-- the parents' meeting once a month (childcare is available). If you scratch the surface you will find a wonderful caring community of parents. Spend time in the classroom (you are welcome to do this at any time, I've found). I love this school. My children have thrived here (although I have had my share of crying fits in the morning, especially during transitions!). This school has always given us the flexibility that other daycare centers would not even contemplate, and they (the school, the parents, the staff) feel like family to us. And they remember all the graduates. When my son goes to visit he gets many hugs from his ex-teachers.

Please, talk with the director. Let her know that this has happened. Ask her for reassurance that it will not happen again. Offer constructive criticism, and give the school a chance to show you all those great things I have mentioned above. You won't regret it. Anon

First thing is I don't think you're over-reacting in your concern that your daughter was able to leave the room without the teachers noticing. My first thought would be to have a discussion with the school about this issue. Regardless of whether your daughter has a reason to want to follow you or not be there, there needs to be a discussion of the escape. I would assume that there is a designated person for you to discuss concerns. I would call on the phone and just say while you understand that your daughter might be upset about pottying, it's not acceptable that she could walk out without anyone noticing and ask how they plan to address it. I leave a 26 month old girl at preschool every morning too and usually one of the teachers holds her while I go, if she's crying, which sometimes happens. Your school needs to be prepared that she may try to follow. In both our daycares, there has been a director or lead person whose job is to discuss this stuff, but it's probably best handled by phone.

As for the whole pottying issue, well this kind of makes sense to me. My daughter has been going potty at school too and it has definitely been a more emotional time for her at drop off each morning. The last few mornings I have actually walked her over to the potty and asked her if she wants to go. And I tell her that when she needs to go, let the teachers know and they'll bring her. It's interesting how relieved she seemed to hear that. We did have a setback when she was constipated and then she only wanted to go for me again, but it definitely seems like there is a relationship between the two issues of staying at daycare and getting used to going potty. I would acknowledge that possibility in discussion with the school, but reiterate the overall concern that they didn't notice she left. While I think it's a good idea for you to remind your daughter that she needs to stay, it's not your responsibility to keep looking back to ! check. It's theirs. Good luck. Lori

I'd take your child out of this facility with immediate effect. If they cannot manage to cover the most basic of safety issues, what else is lacking??? Not worth the worry ... Kristie


Are family home daycares safe?

June 2004


I am just about to start back to work and must find daycare formy 7 month old daughter. It breaks my heart to part from her and I am extremely catious about family (home) daycares. While I was working in a daycare center, myself, one of our previously regular 2 year-olds who had been switched to a family daycare accidentally drowned himself in a bucket in the yard. The bucket had filled up with rainwater from the night before. Regardless, I am now horrified of family daycares but BANANAS tells me that they are the only places available in my ''zone.'' Does anyone have any advice that could calm my fears or point me in the right direction towards affordable local daycare centers? Nicole

There is a wide variety of quality in family daycare. This means that although there can be problems, some of the very best daycare available is also family daycare. My son has been in a family daycare in my area for 2 years, and I cannot imagine a better place for him to have been. The owner and her daughter are absolutely wonderful with the kids. Kids receive lots of one-on-one attention, lots of fun activities, lots of training in how to relate socially, lots of home-cooked good food. And as parents, we've received lots of information about our child (emails telling us what they've done all day, advice about areas of concern, specially organized classes for daycare parents). Also, since we have a strong relationship with the owner, we've been able to make suggestions and have them acted on. Because the daycare is in our neighborhood, we've made good friends with the other parents. The benefits are too numerous to count. In terms of advice, when you are looking at potential daycares, make sure you get a good long interview with the care provider. Ask all the questions that Bananas and other places recommend, and make absolutely sure you feel comfortable with the answers. Ask to check the place out, and make sure you are comfortable with the physical space. In my case, I was half sold on the daycare provider before I even interviewed her; every remark she made on the phone was about what was good for my son -- not about what was convenient for her. And my visit with her only confirmed that impression. Karen

I have found a wonderful family daycare near my home although I had to look at many places before I found one I felt comfortable with. What made me feel more comfortable was that she uses immense care in finding assistants, because she has two of her kids there as well. I checked out all of the day care centers in the area, but I thought that the ones that had openings were too institutional-- my baby was only 4 months old at the time. We are now having a second child and explored all the options again-- nanny, center, family, and decided we are going to put our new baby in the same place. Please let me know if you'd like more information. Sharon

I was quite afraid also about sending my son to any daycare, but feel extremely lucky to have found an in-home Montessori daycare that I love and where my son is thriving and happy (he started at 6 months and he's now 10 months). It's called A World of Learning Montessori and it's run by Denise and her number is 510-233-5574. Certainly, terrible things can happen anywhere - even at home with you. Somehow, you need to put all this anxiety aside and just trust your instincts. Find the safest place you can and ask lots of questions to relieve as much of your anxiety as possible. Good luck! Abby

I understand your concerns about family daycare but I think the horror story that you relate, while tragic, doesn't implicate all family daycares as being dangerous to your child. I searched for a family daycare about a year ago and I found a wide variety of settings. Some were more casual about the differentiation between the family home and the daycare area and some (like the one I chose) had a certain part of the home only used for daycare and the rest is off limits for the children. I liked that because I didn't have to worry about a family member leaving something out that would be potential attractive for my son to get into. I think you just have to look at a lot of daycares and you will get an idea of what you are comfortable with. It is the same with daycare centers - some will seem right to you and some won't. I wouldn't rule it out as an option just because of one horrible story. There are lots of great, safe places for your child and family daycare may be a great option for you - you never know. A happy home daycare mom

I too am one of those people that just don't feel comfortable about some family day cares - the idea of one person alone w/ several kids makes me nervous, no matter how nuturing they may be. But you should definately go check out some family daycares as there are a wide variety of them out there. I've seen some that look like regular day care centers with several teachers, and there are definately family day care providers that take their job seriously and professionally. Bananas has a list of things you should look for when checking them out, such as child proofing, and questions to ask. You usually have to make an appointment, but you can also drive by them and kinda scope out what's going on. Also, you don't have to be limited to the area you live in. Check out daycare centers in other neighborhoods either where you work or on the way to work. I live in N. Berkeley, work in the City and drop my son off at a daycare center in Emeryville. It's quicker to get to Emeryville than to N. Berkeley from the City which makes it less stressful trying to get there in time (as most centers will charge you each minute you are late past the closing time). And my last piece of advice is to just trust your instincts. You will hear a lot of opinions from people about the pros and cons of each type of child care, but in the end you have to do what's best for your comfort level and peace of mind. anon