Sizing up maltreatment in child care

  • Article by: JANE FRIEDMANN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 22, 2010 - 6:11 PM

A toddler suffered a dislocated elbow while in day care. Crying infants were forcibly hushed. Children left with unauthorized visitors or simply wandered away.

These were some of the cases of maltreatment in child care centers substantiated by the state Department of Human Services in the first half of the year. The department received 293 complaints of maltreatment in that period.

Once a finding is made, centers must take corrective action and may be fined. Employees responsible for "serious" or recurring maltreatment are banned from working directly with people receiving certain state services.

I obtained the department's database of actions taken against the more than 1,500 child care centers. From that I isolated the 10 maltreatment findings and examined the investigative documents for each one. The department protects the identity of children by omitting names, genders or family relationships.

Here are all substantiated maltreatment findings issued in the first half of 2010.

SERIOUS MALTREATMENT

New Horizon Academy, Richfield

On March 1, 2010, a 2-year-old who seemed fine at the start of the day later complained of pain. A doctor diagnosed a dislocated elbow. The child said a staff member "hurt my arm." The worker no longer works there and has been disqualified by the state.

FINDINGS WITH FINES

Children's Garden Early Childhood Learning Center, Minneapolis

Sometime prior to June 22, 2009, staff allowed two people to take two children from the facility even though the two were not authorized and didn't know the last name of one child. The children were returned later that day. ($1,000 fine).

Discovery Center Big, Marshall

On Oct. 19, 2009, a passerby found two 3-year-olds about four blocks from the facility in 46-degree weather. Neither had on coats. One had no shoes. Staff had been looking for the children but hadn't called 911. ($1,000 fine).

MetroKids, Mineapolis

On Oct. 8, 2009, a child got off a school bus downtown, but there was no staff member to meet the child. A stranger walked the child to the center. ($1,000 fine).

Treehouse Latch Key and Child Learning Center, Hanover

On July 23, 2009, four children were sunburned when the center had a "water fun day." Staff had asked parents to apply sunscreen in the morning, but didn't make sure the kids were protected throughout the day. ($1,000 fine).

FINDINGS WITHOUT FINES

Community Child Care Center, Minneapolis

On Nov. 19, 2009, after one child slapped another, a staff member slapped the first child and asked, "How do you like it?" (Employee no longer there).

New Horizon Academy, Chaska

On July 30, 2009, an employee served a child cow's milk despite knowing the child was allergic to it. The child was given Benadryl, even though there was no permission on file and the med had expired. Family said the child became ill. (Employee no longer there).

Newport Head Start, Newport

On March 16, 2010, after a child was hitting and pushing other kids, a staff member grabbed the child's shirt collar. A co-worker said the action left a slight "red welt." (Employee no longer there).

Peaceful Heights Montessori School and Day Care, West St. Paul

The investigation that began Feb. 10, 2009, found that a worker held a hand or a cloth over the mouths of crying infants. The worker also "force-fed" them bottles and held infants on the floor with his or her feet. (Employee no longer there).

UMD Children's Place, Duluth

On Feb. 18, 2010, strangers found a child standing outside the U of M Duluth building that houses the child care center. The staff didn't know the child had left.

Each week, Hard Data digs into public records and puts a spotlight on rule breakers in the Twin Cities and Minnesota. You can contact me at jfriedmann@startribune.com.

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