(MOBILE, Ala.) LOCAL 15 News is investigating hidden dangers at your child's daycare. This summer we uncovered major violations at Daphne daycare Just Kid'n Around. Days later, the state suspended the owner's license. That prompted us to dig deeper into what other daycares may be hiding. LOCAL 15's Andrea Ramey reviewed all substantiated complaints made since January 2010 through August 2011 for daycares in Mobile and Baldwin Counties.
"Oh, she picked him up by one arm. His feet were dangling off the ground," said a Daphne mother.
That's what one mother, who didn't want to be identified, says she saw on Just Kid'n Around's surveillance footage this summer. She says she requested to see it after her 4-year-old came home with a hurt arm. She says up until that point, she had trusted the staff there.
"Don't go off kind words and smiles," she said.
Her complaint to the Alabama Department of Human Resources wasn't the only one. After receiving numerous calls from parents, DHR shut the center down because it posed an "imminent danger" to children.
Turns out Just Kid'n Around is not the only daycare in our area with major violations.
At PFC Howard Johnson in Mobile, DHR says staff admitted to punching a child in the face and admitted to hitting children with a ruler. We showed the complaint to director Gloria Johnson. At first, she didn't remember the incident or how her center addressed it. But minutes later during the interview, she recalled how she handled the situation.
"The teacher was suspended, was terminated from the center," said Johnson.
Documents also show bleach was kept near where toddlers played and kept in a Powerade bottle in one of the classrooms.
"I told that teacher don't put bleach in any other bottle because that has to be labeled. And that teacher is also not here, fired," said Johnson.
"So two people were fired last year?" asked Ramey.
"Yes," Johnson replied.
"We are doing just fine now," said Johnson. "Here at PFC, I think we do a very fine job of taking care of our children."
At Kidz World in Eight Mile, a 34-month-old was lifted by one arm and moved across the classroom. The owner didn't want to talk to us about it.
"No, thank you. Don't put me on camera. Thanks, but no thanks."
It wasn't the only violation DHR found there. According to records, investigators found it was 86 degrees inside the classroom in the summer, and there were rusty metal pieces on the merry go round.
Hazardous playground equipment was one of the most common violations Local 15 News uncovered. There were 15 separate incidents documented. Having chemicals like bleach not under lock and key was another common violation. DHR cited 20 incidents from January 2010-August 2011. And in that same time period, DHR reported 13 cases of exposed electrical outlets near where kids play.
Local 15 News also found daycares with roach problems, staff who didn't have criminal background checks on file, places that allowed two children to use one seat belt, and daycares where supervision was lacking.
At Greenfields in Mobile, a young child with special needs wandered from the playground and was found in a nearby parking lot. The center says it has since beefed up security by adding staff during play time and extra locks on all gates so kids can't get out.
At Kimz-Kidz on Schillenger Road, DHR says a 16-month-old was left unattended on the playground for an undetermined amount of time in April. The owner did not return our request for a comment.
Back at Just Kid'n Around, the state says the owners waived their right to a hearing and surrendered their license. It now has a new out of state owner who has renamed it Little Feet First, and the owner says he hired almost all new staff.
"It's whole new management, ownership," said the new director LaShonda Walker.
Walker says she was a teacher at Just Kid'n Around when the state shut it down but has no knowledge of any of the reported problems.
"I'm just ready to start fresh," said Walker.
These are just some of the substantiated complaints made at licensed daycares. The state says there are 136 church affiliated daycares in Mobile and Baldwin Counties that don't through the same scrutiny.