(Memphis) It was the hot summer of 1999 and child care in Memphis was turned on its head after two separate incidents where two babies left in hot daycare vans by workers died.
It put the focus on a systemic flaw in Memphis’s daycare industry.
Attorney Carol Chumney was in the Tennessee House of Representatives back then and helped lead a push for daycare reform.
“There were other centers where it appeared the kids were not being properly looked after. It appeared money was being mishandled and maybe even not used for the benefit of the children,” said Chumney.
A name that topped the list was Cherokee Children and Family Services ran by John and Willie Ann Madison.
After years as daycare brokers, distributing state and federal daycare dollars, the Madisons were convicted for taking daycare money for their own personal use, steering money and contracts to friends and garnering millions in salaries, all while children were under served.
“There needed to be better regulations, more inspections, better caring of the children, better training of the workers. We were able to get that done,” said Chumney.
Chumney wrote ten bills to change the system.
Despite resistance from lobbyist and political powerhouses, they were able to past reform lowering the child to worker ratio, increasing training, and mandating state audits.
“I think it really did make a change, but like in any industry, you are gonna have people who don’t follow the rules,” said Chumney.
So when she sees the latest raids, Chumney doesn’t only see that old problems may still exist, she also sees a system that may be working.
“If there is abuse, then rules are in place and the system says hey you violated those rules, we are coming in. I think that’d a good thing,” she said.
Another issue that surfaced during the time of reform concerned the Federal Food Program and whether money that was supposed to be used to provide nutritious meals to children was actually being used for that purpose.
Sources tell us this week’s raid may also have center around the misuse of a food program.