(Memphis) There are new details in an On Your Side Investigation into local daycare centers.
WREG has shown you how repeat offenders stay in business, even after serious health and safety violations and fines.
What you may not know, however, is that those very same day cares are running on your dime.
As if it’s not bad enough to leave children in hot vans, or hire criminals to care for kids, we’ve uncovered information about these very same violators possibly abusing your tax dollars.
“She grabs him and say lay down, just lay down and take a nap. You get on my ‘d’ nerves,” one day care worker said about the director at her center.
WREG has gotten complaints about cursing and mistreatment, to flat out filth.
“They urinate on themselves, she say, just leave them as they are,” the worker added.
It’s not what you’d expect to hear about people who care for children every day, but it happens.
Now, the On Your Side Investigators have uncovered documents that prove you’re footing the bill for problem facilities.
Interim Child Care Services Director Joyce Turner says, “Parents who are working, in school, doing some type of activity, if they meet the eligibility, the criteria, they can receive a child care certificate while they’re doing those activities.”
This subsidized care for low-income and at-risk families is called the Certificate Program. Providers who care for the kids get reimbursed by the state.
According to Turner, if those day cares participate in the STAR program, they get even more money for exceeding regular licensing standards
“If you receive a one, two, or three star, you’re going to get an additional bonus payment on top of that regular reimbursement.”
We cross referenced certificate providers in Shelby County with major violators from 2012 (those hit with fines, probation, suspension).
These very same day cares raked in more than $765,000 in bonus payments alone, and nearly $7 million in regular reimbursements.
The highest bonus payments on our list went to New Glory Preparatory Academy.
It’s the same place the On Your Side Investigators revealed was fined after a little girl walked out and wandered away.
So why are these days cares still banking extra money, your tax dollars, after such violations?
DHS rules show providers only lose bonus payments if they lose their their star rating, and that only lasts for six months.
Plus, there’s more.
WREG talked to a day care worker who claims some owners are hustling the system.
“She takes EBT, SNAP benefits as a form of payment from her parents that are not able to pay cash,” says the worker from Collins Educational and Tutoring Center who didn’t want to show her face on camera.
She’s one of several who called the On Your Side Investigators to initially complain about not getting paid.
She says the owner shops with parents’ EBT cards.
I asked her, “For the kids at the center, for a form of payment?”
The worker replied, “Whether she goes shopping for home or daycare, I don’t know.”
“And you have seen this happen?” I ask.
“Yes,” the worker responded.
The worker also says the owner, Phyllis Collins-Williams, keeps kids on record, who don’t actually attend the center.
We went to the day care to speak with Williams, she wouldn’t speak on camera, but denies the allegations and blames disgruntled, former employees.
DHS has investigated numerous complaints against Collins.
The center’s been cited for eight violations since last November, including several relating to discrepancies with attendance logs.
However, evaluators were “unable to verify” she falsified them.
“I have ‘x’ amount of children, what will you give me for them,” is an example of what Carole Chapple says some parents will call and ask.
Chapple has been in the child care industry for more than a decade.
She’s the owner of Blooming Scholars and is a member of the Child Care Board of Review for Tennessee.
It’s a board that hears grievances from day cares hit with fines.
Chapple says there have been numerous complaints recently about providers “shopping children,” and the board even approached DHS about it.
“The state I feel needs to have a local, investigative division, totally set out to do cases such as those, then they will be able to catch all the centers abusing their privileges,” Chapple said.
Chapple saidshe understands the state simply doesn’t have the manpower, and believes the cheaters only represent a small number of day cares.
But, for those who claim it’s happening, like the worker who spoke with WREG, “I just want her to understand that this is not right.”
A spokesperson from the Department of Human Services says they’re in the process of reviewing the claims about Collins Educational Center and some have been turned over to the investigative division.
They say they take complaints very seriously and make every effort to investigate them in detail.
Meanwhile, if you see a violation or have a complaint about a child care center, call DHS’ hotline at 1-800-462-8261.