Crying infants hidden by childcare worker, officials say
May 15, 2007
LAFAYETTE, Tennessee (AP) -- The state has closed a day care facility after a worker allegedly hid crying infants in a storage room during an unannounced inspection, possibly to disguise inadequate staffing, officials said.
When an inspector visited Paulette's Group Day Care Home on Friday, there was only one worker minding eight children -- a violation of state rules, Department of Human Services spokeswoman Michelle Mowery Johnson said.
Officials said the day care worker put three infants -- all younger than 2 years old -- in their playpens and pinned blankets over the tops of the playpens. She then shut the door and posted a sign: "Private Day Care does not go beyond this door."
Two of the infants were crying when the inspector arrived. When the inspector found them, the worker acted as if she did not know they were there, according to the state's suspension order.
"The conditions were so egregious," Johnson said, adding the room had electrical boxes, hot water heaters and chairs and boxes stacked to the ceiling. "If there had been a fire in that house, the firefighters might not have gone to the room because of the sign on the door."
Day care owner Paulette Colter was on vacation when the inspector arrived at the facility run out of her home. Her day care license has been suspended, Johnson said.
The Tennessee Department of Children's Services is investigating whether there was child abuse or child neglect, a department spokesman said. Any criminal charges would have to be brought by local authorities.
Colter could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday. Her lawyer did not return a phone message.
According to state law, Colter's day care is required to have at least two adults to care for eight children.
Colter's day care has been licensed since 1988 and has the state's highest rating for day care agencies -- three stars. That means it's inspected by state officials with a minimum of three unannounced and two announced visits annually, Johnson said.
But the inspection was not the first time the day care center has experienced problems. Ten children were infected last June with E. coli at the same day care, which is about 50 miles northeast of Nashville near the Kentucky state line. Four were sent to the hospital for treatment and later released, Johnson said.
The E. coli did not originate at the day care center, Johnson said, but the state cited the day care for not keeping accurate daily attendance records on each child, leaving children unattended outside and exceeding the day care's licensed capacity.
Fantasy Football: "Luck is where preparation meets opportunity"