DHS suspends Bellevue child care service’s license after multiple violations
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) - The Tennessee Department of Human Services confirmed Harpeth Kindercare’s child care license was suspended Tuesday after officials found several supervision-related violations within the organization.
DHS said the suspension of the child care license comes after the department made numerous attempts to assist the organization in several violations they have made, including the following:
Violation of Safety Plan
On Aug. 16, 2022, Harpeth KinderCare was issued a modified Safety Plan by DHS Child and Adult Child Care that was related to the staffing shortages at the organization. The Safety Plan required that the organization only operate with ten classrooms, and those classrooms could be open “only as long as the classrooms are fully in compliance with DHS adult: child ratio rules at all times.”
On Sept. 1, 2022, while conducting a Safety Plan follow-up visit, Holly Cotton, a DHS licensing consultant, observed 12 children in the school-aged classroom. The children were two and a half years to seven years old. According to DHS rules, two-and-a-half-year-old children are not allowed to be combined with children over five.
Criminal background check requirements
On Aug. 5, 2022, Rasheta Flemmings, another DHS licensing consultant, conducted an in-person complaint investigation visit at the organization and found that one educator, Alexandra Cooper, was working in the 3-to-5-year-old classroom but had not completed the required criminal background check. According to DHS, Cooper had worked at Harpeth KinderCare since June 2022. No official hire date was reported. However, Flemmings noted a post-it note on file that said, “get a criminal background check.”
While Flemmings was investigating on Aug. 5, 2022, it was determined that two staff members, Cooper and Tiffany Gattrell, did not have staff files at the agency for review. In addition, the acting director of Harpeth KinderCare, Caroline Clark, did not have a file on site.
While conducting her complaint investigation on Aug. 5, 2022, Flemmings reported an unsupervised 4-year-old child on the agency playground. Educator Skye Bowden had said that she had to leave her classroom to retrieve the child from the playground, which resulted in the rest of the class being left unsupervised while she did so.
Flemmings reported that she also saw two children, age 2-1/2 years old, in one of the Harpeth KinderCare restrooms unsupervised. DHS said to get to the restroom; the children would have to walk from their classroom down a hallway and around the corner out of the sight of their educator.
When Flemmings asked the children’s educator why the children were allowed to go unsupervised, the educator gathered the remaining children in her classroom to go to the bathroom but failed to conduct a roll call before doing so. As a result, a hiding child was left behind in the classroom. Flemmings said it took three minutes for another educator to come into the classroom to retrieve the child that had been left behind.
On Aug. 23, 2022, while conducting a Safety Plan follow-up visit at the agency after it had reopened, Cotton reported a preschool-aged child washing their hands in the hallway unsupervised. The child’s two educators were in the classroom across the hall, seated on the floor where they couldn’t see the child.
The final violation observed by DHS officials was reported on Aug. 30, 2022, when a 2-year-old child used the bathroom unsupervised. Cotton noted that there was no other staff available to assist with supervising children in going to the bathroom. As a result, one of the other DHS officials at the time had to step in to help the child in the bathroom until the acting director arrived at the daycare.
“Compliance requires that qualified educators properly supervise children according to their age and required level of supervision. The agency must have sufficient staff present to ensure that supervision can be maintained during bathroom break times. Young children may never be sent out of a classroom to go to the bathroom unsupervised. Playground supervision procedures for counting children must be followed to ensure that children are never left unsupervised. Unsupervised children, especially young children, are at imminent risk of harm.”
A hearing was held Wednesday for Harpeth KinderCare to determine if there needs to be any emergency action, whether the child care agency has taken corrective measures high-quality following a violation of licensing laws, and whether the agency demonstrates a reasonable ability to maintain or continue compliance with all the relevant licensing laws and regulations.
KinderCare Learning Company officials provided the following statement:
“We’re a proud member of the Bellevue Harpeth community and have provided high quality child care at our Harpeth facility for nearly two years. This closure was not related to anything that would cause immediate harm to children and the State’s suspension was triggered by administrative issues. We know how critical child care is for our community, and we’re working closely with state licensing officials to reopen our center as soon as possible. In the interim, we’ve successfully relocated many of our impacted families to nearby centers.”
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