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‘Gone to get my children.’ SC home day care provider left infant alone with dogs

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Choosing a child care provider can be a tough decision for parents. American Academy of Pediatrics spokeswoman Dr. Deborah Mulligan gives advice on how to find a safe day care for your child.
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Choosing a child care provider can be a tough decision for parents. American Academy of Pediatrics spokeswoman Dr. Deborah Mulligan gives advice on how to find a safe day care for your child.

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Troubles in S.C. home day cares

For the first time, South Carolina is now inspecting day cares operated in people’s homes. What inspectors are finding is disturbing.


Roach infestations, overcrowded homes and other dangers lurk in some S.C. home day cares, according to recent state inspections.

Child welfare regulators in South Carolina had little knowledge of the dangers threatening children in home day cares until 2014, when the deaths of infants in those private homes sparked outrage. In response, lawmakers passed a law allowing inspectors with the S.C. Department of Social Services to make annual unannounced visits to these homes for the first time ever without needing a complaint first.

South Carolina has more than 700 home day cares, comprising a third of the roughly 2,500 child care facilities in the state. Home day care providers are allowed to keep up to six children in their homes.

The State Media Co. recently reviewed more than 4,300 records of inspections and complaint investigations conducted since the new law passed through 2017, the most recent year available for review. In that time span, inspectors cited providers more than 600 times for violations, including health and safety violations.

Of the home day cares that were cited, 243 are still open, according to state records.

Here’s what regulators found:

Multiple violations, still operating

When an inspector showed up at a Florence home day care in August 2015, the provider, Starlean Green, was cited for having nine children in her Byrd Lane home, three more than she was authorized to have in her care.

In October 2016, Green was not home when an inspector arrived, according to the inspection report. Instead, a family member was in the home but denied Social Services access for eight minutes until the provider returned. While waiting, inspectors saw the provider’s niece, also listed as the facility’s emergency contact, drive off with four children in her car, including three under the age of 2 who were not properly restrained in the vehicle. The provider had 10 children on site, when it was registered only for six.

In May 2017, that same provider did not report that one of her caregivers had been arrested. The provider is still listed as a home day care operator on Social Services’ website.

Social Services moved to shut Green’s center down in 2017, but she appealed the decision, and Green was placed on a corrective action plan, which she successfully completed, said Social Services spokesperson Pamela Bryant.

Green declined to comment to the newspaper.

A knife, dog feces and roaches

Inspectors found several violations in Mortrice Leaf’s home day care on Boardwalk in Florence, yet she was allowed to continue operating only to be cited a year later for similar violations.

In August 2016, inspectors found roaches on the kitchen floor and ceiling, a knife on the kitchen floor, exposed cable box wires hanging down and a filled mop bucket in the hallway — all accessible to children. The home was cluttered and in need of a major cleaning and extermination, the Social Services inspector noted.

In June 2017, inspectors found dog feces in one room of the still cluttered home, cleaning supplies in the reach of children, paperwork violations and trash on the floor. The operator is no longer listed in the state’s database.

Efforts to reach Leaf were unsuccessful.

Infants left alone in a house

A day care monitor stopped to check on Robin Christy’s home day care on Saddlebrook Circle in Lexington in February 2017, and found a note on the door that said “gone to get my children.” The monitor waited on the porch, and about 10 minutes later, Christy walked up with four children, including two of her own.

When the provider opened the front door, the monitor found two infants left alone in the house, including one who was in a bouncy seat while two dogs roamed the house. Social Services shut down the day care that same month.

Efforts to reach Christy were unsuccessful.

What deputies found instead of their suspect

Law enforcement came to Cassandra Richmond-Brown’s home day care on Durham Creek Court in northeast Columbia in August 2014 to serve a warrant on someone else. They didn’t find the suspect.

Instead, they found 14 children in the home, which was registered for no more than five children. The children were discovered in a “small downstairs room,” ages ranging from “infants in a crib to an 8-10 year old,” an incident report said.

Social Services shut down the home day care on April 1, 2015, about five months after the incident.

Efforts to reach Richmond-Brown were unsuccessful.

17 children and counting

Social Services was investigating a complaint against Maggie Jones, who operated a home day care on Margaret Drive in Ladson, when inspectors found 17 children in her home. The day care was approved for no more than six children, according to a November 2014 citation. The provider had six infants in bedrooms all lying in play pens, which are unsafe for sleep, the Social Services inspector noted in an incident report. Some of the infants were behind closed doors.

During the investigation, more children were trying to get dropped off at the house, the inspector noted, and the provider failed to check on several crying children until told to do so. Social Services shut the provider down in June 2015.

Efforts to reach Jones were unsuccessful.

Reporter Cody Dulaney contributed.

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Jamie Self is a projects reporter writing about health care, education, criminal justice and more. An alum of The State’s politics and State House team, Jamie has won several first place awards for education and government beat reporting and has contributed to wins for political and public service journalism. @jamiemself
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