WARNER ROBINS -- An investigation that led to the shutdown of a Warner Robins day care business began with an abuse claim that was not substantiated, but other information gathered set off alarm bells for the state.
That and other details are included in a 184-page report on the investigation obtained by The Telegraph through an open records request.
The report indicates that on Sept. 26, Bright From the Start: Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning received an abuse complaint against Unique Tutoring and Individualized Children Academy, which operates two locations in Warner Robins.
On Oct. 1, a complaint investigator, Ashley Wilson, arrived at the location on Russell Parkway and interviewed staff and children but found nothing to substantiate the complaint. However, Wilson learned from staff members that on Sept. 27, a 4-year-old boy with Down syndrome had left the building and was found next door at the Dollar General by the childs mother. She also learned the child had wandered unsupervised on other occasions.
Wilson was so alarmed that she immediately reported that to her supervisor. It led to further investigation, which also found the center had been transporting children between its Russell Parkway and Evergreen Street locations without a parents permission, proper documentation or sufficient safety restraints. Evergreen Street is off Green Street.
The state also discovered the center had hired an employee with a criminal record without doing an appropriate background check. Other findings included that the center did not have adequate staff to supervise the number of children and that the centers owner, Venetta Taylor, did not adequately cooperate with the investigation.
On Oct. 3, the latest date of a head count, the state found 37 children at the Russell Parkway location. On Nov. 16, there were nine children at the Evergreen Street location.
The state concluded children in the facility were in imminent danger and ordered emergency closure of both locations in late November. A judge upheld the closure on Dec. 3, and after an appeals period passed with no action from Taylor, the revocation became permanent on Dec. 19.
In a Dec. 19 letter notifying Taylor of the license revocation, Child Care Services Director Brenda Haynesworth called the violations flagrant abuse that constitutes shocking intentional misconduct.
Taylor declined to comment about the investigative report when reached by phone Tuesday.
A significant portion of the report concerned the wandering child. At least a couple of staff members appeared to place the blame for that on the mother, who was at the center at the time. They said the mother was in another room with the child when the mother told the child to go back to his classroom, which she should not have done. The mother, however, told the investigator that the staff members lied, lied, lied. The mother said she was the one who discovered the child was missing and then found him next door waiting in line at the Dollar General with six bags of chips. She said she went there on a hunch because she often shopped there with the child.
The mother then took him back to the center and left for work, and later that same day the child was found in the centers parking lot.
The report also indicates Taylor told the investigator she was not aware any child had wandered away from the center. When confronted with information about the Dollar General incident, Taylor said she was told only that the child had left, but not that he had left the building.
To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.