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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- The On Your Side Investigators have uncovered new details about local day care centers served with federal search warrants a year ago.
The U.S. Attorney's Office remains tight lipped about the case, as it's sealed. However, WREG found local operators trying to get around the rules. Plus, we reveal what state regulators aren't telling you about day cares in your neighborhood.
There's nothing but paper on the windows at what used to be in Helping Hands Enrichment Center in Southeast Memphis. However, before the feds raided the place in November 2013, the day care center had a long history of problems.
In fact, it was operating on a restricted license at the time due to numerous violations, two civil penalties, and probation in 2012. State regulators lifted an order to deny the day care center a license to allow it to run on a restricted basis.
WREG has obtained new documents that show the same place was about to be re-opened. Sadly, parents may have never known about its troubled past.
A 3-year-old was left alone on a playground at I Rise Christian Academy. Another child was found by a parent in a parking lot at Learning Tree in Arlington.
A 1-year-old sent to the hospital after falling and hitting her head at Bilingual Academy.
These are all violations the On Your Side Investigators uncovered from going through hundreds of pages of disciplinary actions taken against Shelby County day cares.
However, it won't be as easy for parents to find the same details.
The Tennessee Department of Human Services updated its website in July to include more information about day cares' violation history, but even now, what you won't find are the most severe penalties.
While the website lists day cares' most current violations, punishment like probation, fines and suspension are missing from the "Compliance History" column.
Parents have to call a program evaluator for more details.
Through an open records request, WREG obtained files documenting the most serious violations at local day cares over the past two years. We also created an interactive map (located at the top of this story) for parents to use.
The On Your Side Investigators found 26 day cares hit with major discipline. Nearly half of the violations are related to a day care raid from November 14, 2013.
While the care remains sealed, there were indicators of what federal agents were looking for.
Due the agencies involved, one former US Attorney told WREG, "It could be that they're investigating food stamp fraud, nutrition program fraud and money laundering."
All ten of the day cares involved were connected by one family name: the Chisms.
Documents obtained by the On Your Side Investigators reveal violations on the day of the raid, plus a pattern of previous problems. The agencies were forced to shut down that day, and eventually, the people who ran them had their licenses denied or revoked.
However, before that happened, files reveal DHS was willing to allow some of the centers to re-open.
In addition, another member of the Chism family, Re-Chandra Landfair, who also owns two other centers in Memphis, (Kingdom Hearts, Kingdom Hearts Enrichment Center) one of which was fined $800 in 2012 itself, tried to re-open Helping Hands, one of the raided day cares.
Mrs. Landfair wasn't around when WREG went to her day care centers to speak with her.
The License Denial for what would have been Kingdom Hearts Learning Station notes the application was "an effort to circumvent a history of violations...and the licensing law."
Another individual, Berlin Boyd, also tried to re-open the former KARE II where Kimberly Chism was the owner.
The license denial states "Despite this being a 'new' application from Mr. Boyd, the Department has learned that Ms. Kimberly Chism is assignor on the lease for the building."
DHS spokesperson Devin Stone says adding violation history to the website was just a starting point and they're looking at the possibility of offering more details in the future.
She added, however, it's important for parents to make contact with the Program Evaluator as they can provide important information about the day care.
We also asked DHS why it would consider allowing the day cares involved in the raid to re-open and we've yet to get a response.