Whose hands are touching your child's cradle?

A child in a highchair. / Jessica Fairley

Georgia Governor Nathan Deal recently signed a bill requiring all childcare workers to have a national background search.

The spokesperson for Bright from the Start says this bill was enacted after officials discovered several Macon childcare workers had felony counts in Florida. After hearing so many stories in the headlines, lawmakers passed the bill unanimously.

"We think that it's important to expand that into that arena to make sure that we don't have felons who are actually working in our daycare and childcare facilities, especially if they are associated with crimes against children," said Governor Nathan Deal.

There have been several cases in southwest Georgia where children have fallen victim at the hands of their caretakers.

Just this year in Omega a daycare director allegedly ran over a child with her car and, according to state document, last year a Tifton childcare worker was arrested for child molestation.

In Albany and Dougherty County there have been five investigations so far in 2013.

One woman who lives in Albany says to this day, she remembers very vividly what happened to her son while he was in someone else's care.

"I got a phone call saying that there was something wrong with his arm and when I got to the daycare center, he was not moving it. I took him to the emergency room and found out his elbow was broken," said Pamela Jackson.

Jackson says she felt helpless.

"He was nine months old not even able to walk and he couldn't tell me what happened. All he could do was cry. So for his first Christmas he had a cast on his arm," said Jackson.

The cast was temporary but it left behind a lifelong scar, both on the child and the mother. Jackson says she still feels guilt for not doing her research on the center.

"I found out after this had occurred that just a few months prior a little girl walked out of the daycare center and undercover officer spotted her going down the road," said Jackson said.

Officials with Albany's Child Care Resource and Referral say the time has come where not just restaurants and hotels will have star ratings but childcare programs will have star ratings.

Georgia's Department of Early Care and Learning has kick started a program where child care facilities will be rated based on a three star system. Even one star means the center is above average.

"No longer is it just a high school diploma to keep kids. You're a classroom teacher and we bring that out and we provide lots of training and professional development to really fully acquaint that teacher with what's going on in a child's brain from birth until the time they enter school," said Soraya Kimbrel, Director of Albany's Child Care Resource and Referral.

Kimbrel says just because teachers have the education doesn't mean that the grading stops there. State consultants have the right to stop by at least twice a year unannounced, keeping a close eye on disciplinary actions, diapering procedures, hygiene and infant sleep safety.

If a complaint is of the severity that inspectors believe children are in danger, officials have the authority to close the center down immediately.

That was the case in Tifton and Omega. Both facilities were shut down when officials got word of employee wrongdoings.

Until a national fingerprint search goes in effect along with the three star rating system, parents will have to do the research on who's watching their child.

Pamela Jackson says parents have to get involved by researching each childcare center by getting referrals and double checking to make sure their child will be secure.

Georgine Petty of Petty's Preschool has secured doors at her daycare to keep the children inside and unwanted guests out. It's something that's mandatory for all facilities to have.

After placing a child in a childcare program that has a locking mechanism in place, Jackson recommends making a habit to talk with daycare workers and make unannounced visits.

For more on the childcare safety, log on to the state's website for Bright from the Start.

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