GREENWOOD, Ind. - Smiley’s Early Learning Center has been placed on probation by the state Family and Social Services Administration after one of Smiley’s buses crashed with children on board while in the provider’s parking lot.
When FSSA inspectors showed up Jan. 15, they found a slew of staff members missing records including background checks, CPR, national criminal history checks, drug tests and first aid.
FSSA also issued a 13-page plan of correction to Smiley’s Early Learning Center, formerly Kid Co. Child Care.
No one was injured in the crash, Call 6 Investigator Kara Kenney reported.
The state originally said Smiley’s Early Learning Center did not have valid insurance on the bus involved, but the agency now says Smiley’s has been able to provide evidence of insurance.
Marni Lemons, spokeswoman with FSSA, said the driver of the bus involved in the crash did not have a chauffeur's license, which is a violation of the provider’s own policy.
The correction plan also shows other bus-driving staff with missing chauffeur’s driver’s licenses, and staff missing other paperwork such as CPR, national criminal history check, drug test and first aid.
FSSA also found the registration tags of at least one bus had plates that expired in February 2013, and all three buses were missing blankets and all fire extinguishers were expired.
The state typically notifies parents by mail if a licensed facility is put on probation, or if a license is denied or revoked.
As the Call 6 Investigators have reported, Kid Co. changed owners shortly after a judge ordered its license to be revoked.
It is now operated by Sherita Newbern under the new name Smiley’s Early Learning Center.
Newbern declined to speak with Kenney when she showed up earlier this month.
"I would love to meet with you at a later time," said Newbern in an email to Kenney. "Currently, my focus is on improving the quality of our services."
Smiley’s probation is for a six-month period, Lemons said.
"I have taken over a pre-existing facility that had pre-existing problems," Newbern said in an email to Kenney. "My management staff and I are more than qualified for the task of correcting these problems, and a great task it is."
As of December 2013, records showed Kid Co. owed $18,334.27 in property taxes and penalties.
The Johnson County Treasurer told Kenney a payment of $7,264.23 was made May 31, 2012, but no payment had been received since that date.
FSSA made it clear that no matter what the day care calls itself, it will still have to abide by guidelines.
"As with all licensed child care centers, once a license is approved, the licensee is accountable to the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration's Bureau of Child Care to meet health, safety and other regulations and standards," Lemons said in an email.
In an 11-page decision, an administrative law judge highlighted concern after concern, including that the center used cruel, harsh or unusual discipline on five occasions.
The decision also found Kid Co. did not supervise children on three occasions.
"Although the Center has corrected or attempted to correct several areas of noncompliance, including terminating staff and conducting in-service training, the Center was repeatedly out of compliance with Indiana's child care center rules," read the decision.
The document said Kid Co. failed to notify Child Protective Services of a rash and redness on a child's "private area."
"The Center disputes that this incident was a reportable event," read the decision. "The Director of the Center was not aware of the one-hour time limit to report suspected instances of child abuse or neglect."
The judge listed several examples of workers violating the no-touch policy.
"A bus driver employed by the Center smacked down the hands of two boys who were arguing on the bus," read the decision. "Due to the Center's no touch policy, the bus driver was terminated from his position."
The judge also took issue with cruel verbal language used with children, including an incident when a teacher was trying to get a child to take a nap.
"The child head-butted the teacher. The teacher let go of the child, who slipped to the floor and she yelled, 'get this child away from me or I am going to kill him,'" read the document. "The teacher was terminated and staff were in-serviced regarding proper procedures for handling of children and talking to children."
According to records obtained by the Call 6 Investigators, FSSA first took action to revoke Kid Co.'s license in June 2012 after concerns arose during an annual inspection visit.
FSSA records from June 2012 commented on the handling of child abuse and neglect allegations, saying, "The center failed to report two separate incidents to CPS immediately."
According to Carefinder, previous FSSA inspections also cited the day care for not giving a toddler's injury report to a parent, dirty floors and vents, unsafe sleep practices, unlabeled infant bottles and missing documentation for some staff members.
FSSA records show a January 2013 video revealed a teacher dragging a child by both of his legs from the hallway into a room at least three times.
To read inspection reports on a day care or check its license status, go to the FSSA Carefinder website.