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TAMPA, Florida — At downtown Tampa's Carlton Academy Day School, picking up or dropping off kids is like getting into a high security vault complete with self-locking doors, a fingerprint scanner, and lots of cameras. Employees at the private daycare center go through extensive background checks, along with training in childcare, first aid, and CPR, exceeding standards set by the state.

"You want to make sure they are going to be healthy and safe," said Carlton Academy co-owner Alisandra McGuinness.

But not all child care facilities seem to play by the same rules. In fact, businesses like local gyms, shopping malls, and other retailers offering short term child supervision may not have many rules enforced by the state at all.

"There is probably a lot more leeway for them to operate in a manner that they think is responsible," said McGuinness.

One example is the ratio of children allowed per adult.

"In a licensed facility, we're not allowed to have as many children as we can pack into the corners of a room," said McGuinness.

Florida's Department of Children and Families regulates pre-schools and daycare centers in all but three counties across the Tampa Bay area. Sarasota, Pinellas and Hillsborough have even stricter regulations. But even in those counties, when it comes to "drop-in" child care found in local gyms, parents might be surprised to find it's up to the individual businesses to police themselves.

"Is there any oversight on those type facilities at all?" we asked.

"Not that I'm aware of," said Angela Kummelman.

As Hillsborough County's Senior Child Care Licensing Inspector Kummelman said, while multiple inspections are required within most other child care facilities, even private homes, in the state of Florida local gyms are exempt because they don't meet the state's definition for child care.

When asked if background checks were required, Kummelman said, "They might do it themselves, but it's nothing that we're monitoring for them."

Local gyms say their child care facilities are safe, setting their own policies and procedures for background checks, and the number of children allowed. But Hillsborough County inspectors say it's up to those local gyms to follow their own rules, with little if any oversight from the county or state.

When asked for her opinion on if most unlicensed facilities were doing a pretty good job, Kummelman said, "I wouldn't be able to say that. I'm not sure, because we're not in them."

We have not found any other problems at any other fitness center chains we canvassed.

Regulated or not, the state has a list of questions parents should ask before dropping off children at any child care provider.

10 Investigates sent a questionnaire with many of those same questions to Tampa Bay area fitness clubs offering child care as one of their amenities.

Here is a look at their responses for you to compare:

Anytime Fitness:

Does not offer childcare at its Tampa Bay area locations

Gold's Gym:

Unable to respond before our deadline. Gold's said they will have responses for us sometime May 14. We will post it as soon as we receive it.

LA Fitness:

What is the age range for children you will supervise?
3 months to 12 years

What type, if any, references and/or background checks are conducted on staff?
They are each background checked through an outside service.

Do any staff members have training in first aid and/or CPR?
Yes.

Is any other childcare training provided or required of childcare employees?
Yes.

How many children are allowed for each adult (adult to child ratio)?
It depends on the age of the children present-the more infants, the more attendants needed.

What are the policies or procedures in place for dropping off and picking up children?
The same person who drops off the child must pick up the child. That person may not leave the premises.

Are there any other policies or procedures parents should know about in place to safeguard children?
We have a check in and check out system in place. The parent or guardian checks in along with the child at the front desk. Both are matched to the photos on file for them. They check in again inside the Kids Klub-those check ins are cross referenced. The whereabouts of the parent or guardian is noted in the system in case it is necessary to retrieve them before they are ready to leave. When the parent or guardian returns to pick up the child, the child is checked out after cross-referencing the earlier check in to be sure that the right child and parent or guardian are matched to one another.

Life Time Fitness (International Plaza):

What is the age range for children you will supervise?
Life Time Kids Academy welcomes children ages 3 months – 11 years seven days a week.

What type, if any, references and/or background checks are conducted on staff?
Life Time conducts background checks and reference checks on every employee.

Do any staff members have training in first aid and/or CPR?
Yes, every team member in our Life Time Kids Academy is trained in First Aid and CPR. This is required every two years. Those who do not complete this training or their recertification are taken off the schedule until completed.

Is any other childcare training provided or required of childcare employees?
Yes. Life Time University (LTU) is the learning arm of Life Time and ensures that all team members are trained and certified to do their jobs. For those who serve in our Life Time Kids Academy, they have a rigorous training program of at least 20 hours to ensure they have what they need to provide an uncompromising member experience. This includes engaging with children, safety of children, incident reporting, specific class training, summer camp certifications, birthday parties and more.

Also, to note, all of our Life Time Kids Academy programs are taught by Guru's who need to be uniquely trained and certified in their area of expertise. Many have their degrees in childhood education and for those who teach Karate, he/she must be a black belt, Yoga instructors must have their yoga certification, etc…

How many children are allowed for each adult (adult to child ratio)?
1:4 infants, 1:12 toddlers – 11 YO, 1:8 gymnastics/karate

What are the policies or procedures in place for dropping off and picking up children?
Life Time Kids Academy is open to children of Life Time members. A child must be dropped off and picked up by the same person and he/she must have a photo ID each time. In addition, the parent must share with where within the club he/she will be. There is an intercom system used for paging parents, if necessary.

Are there any other policies or procedures parents should know about in place to safeguard children?
Life Time conducts a daily audit by the Life Time Athletic Tampa General Manager. During the day, there is a safety break that occurs every hour. Parents must also fill out a form the first time a child enters Life Time Kids Academy with detailed information on food allergies, health considerations, etc. to ensure safety of the child at all times.

Powerhouse Gym:

Has not yet responded

Shapes:

All Bay area locations are independently operated. So far, no locations have responded.

Tampa Metropolitan Area YMCA :

What is the age range for children you will supervise?
The Tampa YMCA's Kid Zone Learning & Play Center is a child watch program for children six weeks through seven years of age, while their caregivers stay on property and utilize the YMCA. Some of our branches are able to provide care up to ten years of age depending on available space. Some of our branches also offer a licensed preschool and VPK programs.
What type, if any, references and/or background checks are conducted on staff?
Tampa Metropolitan YMCA Kid Zone staff members are certified annually in First Aid, CPR (Infant, Child & Adult), Oxygen Assistance, AED and Child Abuse Prevention. Prior to hire, staff must pass a National Level 2 Background Check that includes identity verification/finger printing. Tampa YMCA leadership also conducts reference checks on all our staff before they are hired.

Do any staff members have training in first aid and/or CPR?
See answer above

Is any other childcare training provided or required of childcare employees?
All Kid Zone staff members are required to complete an 8-hour annual training and three additional workshops per year. These trainings/workshops include information about age-appropriate activities and communication with children and parents. Additionally, monthly staff meetings occur within each branch. Staff members are encouraged to obtain the 40-hour licensed child watch training through the state of Florida. Those who do, receive additional financial compensation.

How many children are allowed for each adult (adult to child ratio)?
1:4 ratio in the infant area; 1:10 in the toddler/preschool area; and a 1:12 ratio for school-age children.

What are the policies or procedures in place for dropping off and picking up children?
The Tampa YMCA's Kid Zone Learning & Play Center is restricted to a two-hour period of time while the YMCA member is in the building. Only parents/legal guardians, siblings over the age of 18 and/or grandparents may sign the child in & out of the Kid Zone area; they must also remain in the facility or with an approved YMCA general exercise program (i.e. running, etc) at all times To ensure the safety of the child, the Tampa YMCA REQUIRES that the person who will be picking up the child, also be present at sign-in. YMCA members signing in a child must have a valid ID or YMCA photo membership card with them.

Are there any other policies or procedures parents should know about in place to safeguard children?
All members and guests at the Tampa Metropolitan Area YMCA are put through the RAPTOR screening to safeguard against sexual predators. This is the same system that is used with our local school system. The Tampa YMCA is also a registered "Safe Place" for kids through Hillsborough County.

YouFit:

Does not offer childcare at its Tampa Bay locations

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