KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – The Tennessee Department of Human Services has issued an order of summary suspension for a West Knoxville daycare center after ‘repeated and escalating’ violations.
Helping Hands Child Care in West Knoxville has been ordered by state authorities to cease operations immediately. The order of summary suspension issued says the facility is “a danger to children in its care” requiring DHS to issue the order of summary suspension, “to protect the health, welfare and safety of the children in the care of the agency.”
Helping Hands, which first opened in October 2011, has been cited for violations of the child care licensing laws and regulation at least 31 times. The daycare was put on a probationary period on February 7, 2019, for supervision violations. During the probationary period, the daycare was cited for seven repeat supervision violations and received $1,400 in civil penalties on March 15, 2019.
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“We weren’t made aware that anything had happened. I mean, it was a couple of weeks ago so it’s kind of too late to ask a four or five-year-old if they were involved in that. Things like that are concerning but I mean, finding out that teachers have been observed actually lifting kids off of the ground by their arms. These things are definitely surprising because these are people you interact with every day,” said Shea Rider.
Rider’s two sons have attended the daycare for the last year and a half. She says because they had moved, they were planning on changing daycares.
Since that mid-March fine, 17 additional violations have been cited, most notably on Thursday, May 2 when two preschool-aged children were found in the parking lot wandering toward the road while their class was on the playground.
“That does make you wonder about the difference between when you’re physically present with your child and when you’re not anymore. They were always relatively, I thought, forthcoming about things,” said Rider.
Other violations include failure to adhere to sign out/sign in protocols, violating the allowed ratio of adults-to-children, inappropriate discipline, recordkeeping, and a myriad of other supervision violations.
On May 9, the daycare was given a safety plan with several suggestions from the state. DHS says the daycare received technical assistance and intense training for the violations, but inspectors say despite that there’s been no improvement or change.