Child alone at day care, re­port says

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NORTHWEST ARKANSAS - BRIAN FANNEY

A child was left unat­tended at an As­cent Chil­dren’s Health Ser­vices fa­cil­ity in North Lit­tle Rock on Mon­day and two staff mem­bers were fired, a state agency spokesman said.

It was the sec­ond such in­ci­dent in five weeks at that fa­cil­ity, ac­cord­ing to a state Depart­ment of Hu­man Ser­vices doc­u­ment. And it fol­lows the June death of a 5-year-old boy at a separate West Mem­phis fa­cil­ity op­er­ated by As­cent.

Rep. Dan Sul­li­van, R-Jonesboro, is chief ex­ec­u­tive of the com­pany. Nei­ther Sul­li­van nor the com­pany re­sponded to re­quests for com­ment on Wed­nes­day.

The Depart­ment of Hu­man Ser­vices is in­ves­ti­gat­ing to find out what oc­curred Mon­day and if any state laws or reg­u­la­tions were bro­ken, said Brandi Hin­kle, a spokesman for the depart­ment.

She said she did not have knowl­edge of the con­di­tion of the child. In­ves­ti­ga­tions nor­mally take sev­eral days, she said.

“There are — of course — cor­rec­tive action plans that we put in place gen­er­ally when a sit­u­a­tion like this oc­curs so we’re sure the chil­dren are safe,” Hin­kle said.

Both As­cent and a separate wit­ness re­ported the in­ci­dent to the Depart­ment of Hu­man Ser­vices. Hin­kle said it was com­mon for fa­cil­i­ties to re­port leav­ing chil­dren unat­tended.

Gen­er­ally, if the in­ves­ti­ga­tion con­firms an in­ci­dent, a fa­cil­ity is placed on pro­ba­tion from one month to a year, de­pend­ing on the sever­ity of the sit­u­a­tion, she said.

As a re­sult of the pre­vi­ous in­ci­dent in North Lit­tle Rock — which was re­ported June 28 — an­other two staff mem­bers were fired and re­main­ing staff mem­bers were re­ferred to Arkansas State Univer­sity for ad­di­tional train­ing, ac­cord­ing to doc­u­men­ta­tion pro­vided by the Depart­ment of Hu­man Ser­vices.

Ac­cord­ing to the Hu­man Ser­vices doc­u­ment re­leased Wed­nes­day, other re­ports at the North Lit­tle Rock fa­cil­ity in­clude trans­port­ing a child in a van with a bro­ken win­dow and trans­port­ing a child in a van with a door that did not shut prop­erly.

The Depart­ment of Hu­man Ser­vices marked th­ese claims as “true based on the in­for­ma­tion ob­tained from staff.” It noted that chil­dren were not harmed as a re­sult of ei­ther trans­porta­tion in­ci­dent.

An­other claim — made by a caller and de­scribed in the Depart­ment of Hu­man Ser­vices doc­u­men­ta­tion — in­volves us­ing ex­pired safety seats in a van, safety seats used “for dif­fer­ent chil­dren and not in­di­vid­ual chil­dren,” and claims the seats were not al­ways “se­cured in the van be­fore plac­ing the chil­dren in them.”

The caller also “re­ported that the cen­ter is dirty and needs to be cleaned.”

The Depart­ment of Hu­man Ser­vices marked the claims as “founded.”

Other separate claims in­volve staff mem­bers yelling at chil­dren and in one in­stance grab­bing a child’s arms.

Hin­kle said pro­ba­tion­ary sta­tus gen­er­ally ap­plies to a spe­cific site and not a cor­po­ra­tion. The West Mem­phis fa­cil­ity where a child died is un­der a one-year pro­ba­tion.

“Although, if we were to see that there was sys­temic is­sues, we would con­sider that, but they are put on pro­ba­tion­ary sta­tus per-site, not per-provider,” Hin­kle said.

As­cent op­er­ates 10 fa­cil­i­ties across Arkansas. The com­pany is “a lead­ing treat­ment pro­gram for phys­i­cal and be­hav­ioral de­vel­op­men­tal is­sues. We pro­vide day and out­pa­tient ther­apy for ado­les­cent boys and girls and teens through­out Arkansas,” ac­cord­ing to its web­site.

Dur­ing the reg­u­lar leg­isla­tive ses­sion this year, Sul­li­van, who has served as chief ex­ec­u­tive since 2013, spon­sored Act 576, which stripped a state com­mis­sion of its author­ity to reg­u­late child care cen­ters.

As of Aug. 1, the Depart­ment of Hu­man Ser­vices will not need the ap­proval of the Arkansas Early Child­hood Com­mis­sion to es­tab­lish rules.

Af­ter a Fe­bru­ary meet­ing, Sul­li­van said rules ap­proved by the com­mis­sion have been costly for child care cen­ters, fam­i­lies and tax­pay­ers, who sub­si­dize some types of child care.

Jody Veit-Edring­ton, the com­mis­sion’s chair­man, said at the time that the bill ap­peared to be a re­sponse to the com­mis­sion’s re­fusal last year to change a re­quire­ment for at least 50 per­cent of child care cen­ter em­ploy­ees to be cer­ti­fied in first aid and car­diopul­monary re­sus­ci­ta­tion.

On Mon­day, a Crit­ten­den County cir­cuit judge set a Novem­ber trial for four women charged in the June 12 death of 5-year-old Christo­pher Gard­ner, who was left in a hot van. As­cent fired the four women in June.

Ken­dra Wash­ing­ton, 40; Feli­cia Ann Phillips, 42; Wanda Tay­lor, 43; and Pamela Lavette Robin­son, 43, have pleaded in­no­cent to charges of felony man­slaugh­ter.

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