Twenty-nine states provide access to information from child care inspection and complaint records online. Is yours one? Credit: Aaron Williams/Reveal

How safe is your child’s day care?

Reporter Katharine Mieszkowski sought the answer to this question for her own daughter and found that this kind of basic information is hard to come by – and Mieszkowski uncovers obscure government documents for a living.

State inspection reports are public records, but it’s accessing them that’s a problem for many parents. More than a dozen states don’t post these records online.

In California, a state with one of the worst transparency records, Reveal’s senior data editor, Jennifer LaFleur, joined Mieszkowski as they headed to department offices to do the bold and the tedious: They began scanning paper copies of electronic documents to make them – that’s right – electronic. Hundreds of hours were put into this endeavor but, luckily, there was some light at the end of the paper-lined tunnel.

After we started reporting on this information gap, California passed a law requiring some day care data to be posted online, but lots of crucial knowledge remains hidden. In this story, Mieszkowski introduces you to one family that could have benefited from seeing those hidden day care violations much earlier.

So right about now, you’re probably wondering if your state puts its day care inspection records online. We put together an easy way to help you find out: You can search by state or look at the entire map of the U.S. to see how the states compare.

DIG DEEPER

Julia B. Chan worked at The Center for Investigative Reporting until June, 2017. Julia B. Chan is a producer and the digital editor for Reveal's national public radio program. She’s the voice of Reveal online and manages the production and curation of digital story assets that are sent to more than 200 stations across the country. Previously, Chan helped The Center for Investigative Reporting launch YouTube’s first investigative news channel, The I Files, and led engagement strategies – online and off – for multimedia projects. She oversaw communications, worked to better connect CIR’s work with a bigger audience and developed creative content and collaborations to garner conversation and impact.

Before joining CIR, Chan worked as a Web editor and reporter at the San Francisco Examiner. She managed the newspaper’s digital strategy and orchestrated its first foray into social media and online engagement. A rare San Francisco native, she studied broadcasting at San Francisco State University, focusing on audio production and recording. Chan is based in Reveal's Emeryville, California, office.