Former Helping Hands daycare teacher shares thoughts on suspension

Local News
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In the wake of a Knoxville daycare’s closure, a former teacher says she’s not surprised by the violations.

Helping Hands Child Care was shut down by DHS last Thursday with a summary suspension for repeated and escalated violations. The most notable was on May 2, when two preschoolers were found in the parking lot wandering toward the road.

A hearing was held Monday at DHS offices in Strawberry Plains, where a judge decided to uphold the daycare’s suspension.

More: West Knoxville daycare suspension upheld

Buffie Robison says she worked as a teacher at Helping Hands Child Care around 2013 and into 2014. Robison says the recent violations are disturbing since so many parents are entrusting their children’s lives at this daycare.

The news about the closure popped up in Robison’s Facebook feed. 

“It said, ‘West Knoxville daycare closed for violations.’ So, I clicked to read it and it said Helping Hands and I was like ‘Holy crap.'”

That was the only surprise Robison says she encountered. 

“All the violations did not surprise me at all, at all, because it was the same way when I worked there that it is now,” she said.

Robison says she taught 2 to 5-year olds in 2014.  One violation at Helping Hands concerns Robison the most. 

“I guess it was the two kids just out in the parking lot. You’ve got cars coming in and out of there picking up kids, dropping off kids. There are businesses behind that daycare and these kids are just out roaming around and no one’s paying attention. Why?” she said.

While Robison was there, she says it was a good environment amongst teachers, however, she says they were under a lot of stress and it’s part of the reason why she resigned.

“I potty trained most of them, taught them how to write their names. It was upsetting but I could not do it anymore,” she said.

Robison says she agrees with the judge’s decision to keep Helping Hands closed.

“You shouldn’t have to fix anything because these violations shouldn’t have happened in the first place,” she added.

What’s next for Helping Hands Child Care

DHS says this is a temporary measure. From here the judge has to issue his written order, then DHS will decide whether to take further action.

Helping Hands Child Care’s license is now suspended. Its owner, Chris Middlebrook, can appeal the order which would mean the next step is the Child Care Board of Review. That board will decide whether to deny the daycare’s license.

“When a child care agency has had a license denied or revoked, the agency must wait at least one year from the date when the order became effective before they can apply for a new license. That application would be reviewed by DHS staff and they would consider the content of the application itself and prior experience with the agency. Information provided through the application process would need to demonstrate that the issues with the prior operation would not be repeated,” said Sky Arnold with DHS.

DHS says a summary suspension is one of the most severe remedies. Only five have been issued by the state in recent years:

  • 2015: Discovery Zone Learning Center in Shelby County was served and Ms. Jennifer’s Child Care in White County was served.
  • 2016: Prestigious Learning Academy #1 in Shelby County was served, but it was overturned and the agency reopened.
  • 2017: Ms. K’s Dante Kids in Knox County was served.
  • 2018: Play Station in Sullivan County was served.
  • 2019: Helping Hands Child Care in Knox County was served.

TDHS suggests looking for specifics when finding a child care center, according to this list: 

  • Promoting positive relationships among all children and adults
  • A curriculum that promotes learning and development in each of the following areas: social, emotional, physical, language, and cognitive
  • Consistently receiving information about your child’s development and learning on a regular basis
  • Children’s health, nutrition, and safety are supported

More resources, including Frequently Asked Questions for parents, can be found online: 

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