January 6, 2000                                                                                                      Patricia Harris Morehead at (615) 313-4707

DHS Suspends Child Care License After Incident

NASHVILLE— Today, the Tennessee Department of Human Services took immediate action against the owner of a Memphis child care center that left a 13-month-old child in the center last night after it closed.

Under a new zero-tolerance policy implemented by DHS in October, state officials have suspended the license and are initiating steps to revoke the license of Step-By-Step Development Center (623 Jefferson). The suspension means the center must close immediately and remain closed pending a decision by a hearing officer at a “show-cause” hearing. That hearing has been scheduled for January 11, 2000.

If the department’s decision is upheld, the center must remain closed pending a hearing on the revocation by the Child Care Review Board. If the summary suspension is reversed by the hearing officer at the “show cause” hearing, the department still can proceed with revocation.

“As we have stated numerous times, we consider these incidents to be extremely serious. This behavior is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. We will continue to use all available enforcement tools to ensure that children are in safe and healthy child care settings,” state Human Services Commissioner Natasha Metcalf said.

According to DHS, Step-By-Step was issued license by the department in May of 1999. The center is licensed for up to 77 children, but has been caring for about 20 to 28 children. Today, when DHS licensing counselors served the summary suspension order, only four children were present.

Parents who may need assistance finding other child care for their children are urged to contact the DHS Child Care Resource and Referral Office at 1 800 462-8261. If the family participates in the state’s child care subsidy program, they should contact the local child care broker agency for assistance with transferring their certificate. That phone number is 1 (901) 367-1479.

Individuals are encouraged to report suspected licensing violations to the local DHS child care licensing staff. Other concerns about child care services or issues should be reported to the local child care ombudsman for each district.

Editor’s Note: Attached is a copy of summary suspension order.