Wee Care Day Care Home

Pre-schoolers prepare to do puzzles at the Wee Care Day Care Home in Merrillville.

John J. Watkins, The Times

A spokeswoman said this week the state agency responsible for regulating the day care industry is developing an online portal for child care providers, which it hopes will help reduce the number of paperwork-related citations issued to child care providers.

The “provider portal,” which is expected to be launched in March, would allow providers to submit and store their staff paperwork electronically on a database maintained by the Family and Social Services Administration, according to agency spokeswoman Marni Lemons. It would also be connected to a new staff training platform, which is scheduled to launch in January.

The portal will connect with the state's licensing database, so providers will know before home inspections whether there are any issues, such as missing drug tests or immunization records, that need to be addressed.

“This should assist with minimizing the citations on the visit for missing documentation,” Lemons said.

This summer, the Times reviewed more than 200 online and paper inspection reports for child care homes in The Region after police allegedly discovered guns, knives and liquor bottles in a child care home in Merrillville earlier this year.

The Times reported the allegations against the child care operator, Tawana Cole, were unusual, though many child care homes in Lake and LaPorte counties have been cited regularly during annual inspections for missing child and staff paperwork.

Nicole Norvell, director of the agency's Office of Early Childhood Learning and Out-of-School Learning, said her office has been developing the new provider platform for approximately a year.

She said the platform will initially only allow providers to store staff-related paperwork, but a later version could allow the storing of documents related to enrolled children.

Novell said using the new platform would not be a requirement for providers.

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Steve covers Lake County courts and social justice issues for The Times. The UW-Milwaukee graduate joined The Times in 2016 after reporting on criminal justice in New Mexico and Wisconsin.