- Associated Press - Sunday, November 8, 2015

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - A newspaper reports a for-profit child care operator with centers in Kentucky and Indiana was allowed to open more facilities in Middle Tennessee despite safety violations in the other states stretching back more than a decade.

The Tennessean (http://tnne.ws/1WGZ1oj) reports Never Grow Up Inc. operates 12 child care centers in Middle Tennessee under The Academy and Holly Tree brands, adding an investigation found the agency continued to violate health and safety rules.

In one case, an unsupervised 5-year-old child suffered a shock to the hand and burns after inserting a bobby pin into an electrical outlet, the paper said. It added that violation records posted online by the Tennessee Department of Human Services also describe an incident at another Never Grow Up facility where discipline administered by caregivers was said to have been “frightening and potentially injurious” and to have “caused bodily pain.”

However, in spite of these and other violations, DHS gave all but one of the Never Grow Up facilities with violations in Davidson, Williamson and Sumner counties a two- or three-star rating, the newspaper reported. Three stars is the highest quality rating the state confers on child care centers.

In total, Never Grow Up operates nearly 30 child care centers. The report said that in Kentucky and Indiana inspectors have documented cases of insect and rodent infestations, infants put to sleep with potentially suffocating blankets and bibs, and multiple instances of unsupervised children, including a 4-year-old girl left forgotten on a cot under a basement stairway for up to 30 minutes before she woke up “shaking and crying.”

In comments to The Tennessean about the reported violations, Never Grow Up owner and operator Dwight Derringer said: “I think that, as with everything, when we find an issue we report, we go forward, we terminate, we retrain and we address.”

DHS spokeswoman Stephanie Jarnagin said the history of serious violations, civil penalties or probation at a facility is considered before issuing a license to another facility owned by the same individual or company, but all decisions are handled on a “case-by-case basis.”

To monitor for rules compliance, she said DHS’ licensing staff conducts at least four unannounced visits to all agencies during the licensing year. The majority of agencies associated with Never Grow Up receive four to five unannounced visits each year based on the two- to three-star rating at each center, Jarnagin said.

Violations were cited when observed and the agency was provided an opportunity to correct them, she said. Unannounced follow-up visits were conducted to ensure the violations were corrected. Jarnagin said DHS is “always looking” for ways to improve the quality and safety of its licensed child care facilities.

Derringer said no state regulatory agency has ever forced him to close one of his centers, which employ about 500 people and serve roughly 2,000 families.

Never Grow Up owner and operator Dwight Derringer said criminal background and registry checks are conducted before hiring caregivers, but he acknowledged “child care is not a perfect science.”

“And some people, out of 500 employees, are sometimes not going to do the right thing,” Derringer said.

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Information from: The Tennessean, http://www.tennessean.com

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