The mother of four children who were allegedly told to walk home alone Monday by the woman who runs their Jones County day care center has told investigators that her kids are “not going to be back near” the center.
Jones sheriff’s investigator Kenny Gleaton said Wednesday that the mother, whom he didn’t identify, was “very, very upset” that her 6-, 8-, 9- and 11-year-old were sent to walk an estimated 15 miles.
The children were at Kids University Childcare Learning Center on Monday morning when state regulators showed up and found the center to be in excess of its capacity.
A passing motorist found the children less than a mile up Ga. 49 and called authorities, who later arrested the center’s director, 36-year-old Lavern Stubbs.
A sheriff’s patrolman later drove the children to the sheriff’s office where Gleaton said they were “pretty calm.”
“They’re kids. They’re resilient,” he said.
Gleaton said the children ate chicken strips and rice while authorities got in touch with their mother.
Gleaton said Stubbs later told investigators that she “basically panicked” when an inspector from the Department of Early Care and Learning paid a surprise visit to the center Monday. Authorities say Stubbs said the children were not enrolled at Kids University and then sent the youngsters away, to walk home. They live on the western side of the county near Dames Ferry Elementary School.
“I think she realizes she made a terrible mistake,” Gleaton said. “She was regretful ... but she also realizes she was wrong.”
The front of the ranch-style day care center with beige vinyl siding is adorned with paintings of Sesame Street’s Elmo along with Mickey and Minnie Mouse and SpongeBob Squarepants. A giant Spider-Man is painted on the side of the house overlooking a playground.
Wednesday afternoon, parents with children at the center presented a united front in support of Stubbs and the day care center. Most of them declined to give their names, but those who chose to comment said they will continue to send their children to the center, which sits along Ga. 49, about five miles northeast of Macon’s Bowden Golf Course.
“It’s a great day care,” parent Ashley Smallwood of Jones County said as she pulled into the parking lot. “I don’t think (Stubbs) should have done what she did, but she talked to every parent ... and my kids will still go here.”
A woman who only identified herself as Nicole said, “Just so you know, this is a great day care center. It’s a great place for the kids. I’m not drawing my baby out of there.”
A man who picked up two children Wednesday refused to give his name but said he has been sending his kids to the day care center for a while.
“This day care is amazing,” he said. “The charges (against Stubbs) are bogus.”
To contact writer Joe Kovac Jr., call 744-4397. To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.