Memphis day care that released children to stranger could lose its license

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Building Blocks Academy in Hickory Hill is open for business.

But if the Tennessee Department of Human Services has its way, the daycare won’t be open much longer.

WREG obtained the Notice of Revocation Letter DHS sent to the center this past July saying because of the day care’s failure to meet licensing standards, they cannot justify the continued licensure to operate as a child care agency.

“Wow really. No this is my first time hearing about this,” says Cherish Arnett, whose children attend Building Blocks Academy.

Some parents had no idea that this could be the final nail for a center that has been on the hot seat before.

Building Blocks was one of several random daycares  WREG put to the test back in April.

With permission of parents waiting outside, we sent a WREG employee inside to see if the Building Blocks staff would release the kids of our waiting parents to a person the family doesn’t know a person not on the child pick up list.

“I am very picky about people watching my children,”  the waiting mom told us.

In minutes, we showed how the daycare had let down its guard and turned over an infant and toddler, few questions asked.

“No comment. Bye,” one daycare worker told us when we confronted her about releasing the children to a stranger.

“Too much going on for them to be this careless. If this would have happened for real…(crying),”  the children’s mother told us as she waited outside.

DHS took notice and put Building Blocks under some close scrutiny, bringing in more training and evaluations and putting them on a safety plan.

But when a DHS worker on a later visit found the daycare had too many children per 1 adult, that seemed to seal their fate.

DHS sent notice they planned to pull Building Block’s license.

The hearing is set for November 15th in Nashville, when Building Blocks gets to make its case why it should be allowed to stay in business.

We asked daycare director Ronda McDonald that question.

She declined to talk on camera but said it was a terrible incident that won’t happen again, but she is not backing down and not giving up and she says neither are the parents, who have remained with her.

“It was a careless mistake. But I think everybody makes a mistake and that is not a reason for anybody to lose their license or shut the center down,” says Byra Jones, whose child attends Building Blocks Academy.

“They work with everyone’s time. They are open 12 hours. They feed them all the meals. I like this daycare,” says mom Nakia Bragg.

Building Blocks did present a corrective action plan after our story,  including a new requirement that parents have to call the center and let staff know who will pick up their children and what time.

Building Blocks received three out of four stars on past evaluations.

We found citations in 2015 for a child spanking and in 2016 for putting a baby on its stomach in a crib.

But the biggest violation was when it turned over children to a stranger.

“It’s actually horrible. Anything could have happened to that baby. It is horrible,”  Liz Martin, whose niece attends Building Blocks Academy, said.

Parents who still rely on the daycare could soon be looking for someplace new.

“If something going on at this daycare with the kids I need to know about it. I have four kids who go here. I don’t pay no games about my kids,”  says mom Cherish Arnett.

DHS says because of the severe violations and the high risk of harm to children, it no longer has confidence Building Blocks Academy can operate and ensure the safety and welfare of the children in its care.

We have also learned Building Blocks fired that worker who released the children without following protocol.

WREG will be in Nashville for the day care’s license hearing next November 15, 2017.

We will let you know what happens.

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