(Memphis) Bad day cares, still in business?
The On Your Side Investigators have pressed state regulators on why rule breakers get to keep their doors open, and in many cases, on the taxpayers’ dime.
Now, parents are demanding answers to the very same questions.
One father turned to WREG with his concerns about a particular day care, where once again, we found a pattern of problems.
Furthermore, some parents say the state is turning a blind eye.
In fact, this is yet another example of a day care, and an owner repeatedly cited for violations.
The last time WREG asked state regulators about why they don’t shut down repeat offenders, the On Your Side Investigators exposed a local provider who was denied a license, yet opened another center, then skipped town after a day care van accident and is now under investigation in Georgia!
The On Your Side Investigators go back and press for answers after uncovering even more disturbing evidence, including how convicted felons can care for kids.
“I see why you made the news, I see exactly why you made the news, because you’re scandalous! You’re not going to rob me in the name of the Lord!”
This was an explosive exchange captured on cell phone by an outraged parent at his day care.
The video continues with Justin Rocket saying, “I’m going to call DHS or I’m going to call IRS, either way it goes, I want my paper!”
That “paper” is an end-of-year statement day cares routinely provide parents for tax purposes.
Rockett says his was held hostage by Phyllis Collins Williams, the owner of Collins Educational Center and Tutoring, after a dispute over two weeks pay when the center was closed.
Rockett told WREG, “I went back up there to talk to her, she said, no tax papers unless you pay and I was like, show me where I have to pay, she never showed me.”
By that time, Rockett had already moved his son and nephew to another center.
We asked, “You saw the story, was that what prompted you to pull your kids out?”
He replied, “Yes.”
Rockett continued, “Arguments, loud talking, that’s normal, I was like, I’ve got to get them out of here, and then I saw the story.
WREG first looked into complaints at Collins after employees contacted The On Your Side Investigators.
Those complaints ranged from not getting paid, to mistreatment of children, even allegations of illegal activity.
“She takes EBT, SNAP benefits as a form of payment from her parents,” said one worker during that previous interview.
We exposed a string of violations, from shoddy record keeping, to health and safety.
Rockett told WREG he witnessed it first hand. “Everything is just like one ball of confusion and everybody’s involved and it’s all rooted with her.”
The On Your Side Investigators went back to Collins to speak with the owner.
Mrs. Williams greeted us at the front door and said, “Well, Mrs. Lowe, this is not a good time. I’m sorry.”
“What would be a good time,” we asked?
“Well, we’d have to make that time available for you,” replied Williams.
Speaking of time, Williams spent some behind bars.
The On Your Side Investigators uncovered charges dating back two decades.
Williams most recently did a 30 day stint in 2012 after pleading guilty to theft of property when she didn’t pay a mover.
There are also convictions from the 90s for passing bad checks.
Much of the same time, she was was caring for kids.
Records WREG obtained show Williams ran Just for Babies Family Child Care Home from 1998-2000. She then upgraded to a group home, Just for Babies Group Home, which was open from 2000 through 2008.
“Anybody with a somewhat questionable background shouldn’t be working with children,” says Rockett.
Joyce Turner is the Interim Child Care Services Director for the Tennessee Department of Human Services.
She told the On Your Side Investigators, “Theft and passing bad checks aren’t excludable offenses.” Turner says only violent offenses or crimes against children would prevent someone from running a day care.
Turner sat in on our interview with the agency’s new Assistant Commissioner for Community and Social Services Pat Wade.
“Child safety is very important to us and the protection of children in those child care agencies,” says Wade.
However, our investigation revealed Williams owned another problem day care.
Stonehenge Christian Academy was hit with a fine in early 2011 after evaluators found staff members working without background checks on file.
The facility was cited for several other violations the same year, including one that led to a DCS investigation after “improper discipline” had been used on a child.
Stonehenge voluntarily closed the same year, DHS allowed Williams to open up Collins the following year.
We asked Wade, “Why are repeat offenders allowed to stay in business?”
“Well, I think that depends on the situation, we take those violations and we look back at them on a case by case basis,” Wade said.
Turner also added that DHS has the ability to deny a license in addition to issuing fines and probation.
However, in reference to Williams running Stonehenge and then opening up Collins, “This is something that we will probably need to further investigate and provide you with information,” Wade said.
“If I had known this, my kids would have never went there,” Rockett said to WREG, in reference to the previous violations.
DHS will soon add violation history to its website.
When parents search for child care, they’ll be able to see a year’s worth of previous violations.
Wade told WREG, “It’s our intent to have the violations online by July 1.”
Too late for Rockett, but maybe another parent can avoid a dangerous day care.
“Do you think the state is missing it,” we asked Rockett?
He said, “When I called to complain to the state, I just kind of get the runaround. Small things that you complain about, when you complain about them when they’re small, we’re trying to keep them from getting big.”
Williams refused an on camera interview, but sent an emailed statement to WREG.
She said, “I appreciate your concern and interest in this matter however, the father you are speaking in reference to owed this school monies. Our company policy clearly states that if money is owed at the end of the year, no records with our Tax ID number will be provided until fees are paid or an arrangement has been made to clear up the outstanding balance. Every parent receives a copy of our school policy at the time of enrollment.”
DHS also further addressed why Williams was allowed to open another center after being issued a fine.
According to Spokesperson Devin Stone, “Collins Educational Center and Tutoring did not receive a new license until eleven months after Stonehenge closed, and therefore, was considered a new agency.
In determining if Collins Educational Center and Tutoring should be given license, child care licensing staff considered the procedures/requirements for obtaining a license.
As mentioned in the interview, we are reviewing licensing rules and intend to address this type of matter more directly.”
DHS officials also said Collins corrected all of its violations in 2012/2013, prior to being issued its renewal.