Children's Day Out

Director Christen Rodriguez, left, and assistant director Mira Boyer stand in the Children’s Day Out outdoor play area Thursday at Krum First United Methodist Church. Rodriguez, previously the assistant director, was promoted when the previous facility head resigned in the wake of concerns regarding student safety. Boyer was also promoted from her position as an employee of the center.

Despite false alarms to the contrary, and several safety violations, a child care center in Krum will remain open.

Debate over the future of Children’s Day Out flared after pictures of an injured 2-year-old spread across social media on July 5.

Photos posted by an upset parent and former employee showed several large scratch marks running the length of a child’s face and neck. One scratch ran down the boy’s forehead and wrapped around his right eye. Another seemed to cut the bottom of his left eyelid.

The mother who made those posts did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

The child care operates out of Krum First United Methodist Church, but it is under a separate incorporation.

The Rev. Sonya Shahan said the child care center’s operators answer to the church council, and their rent is subsidized by church members.

A July 8 email signed by Shahan sent to parents announced the center would close its doors before Krum ISD reopens for the 2019-20 school year. But after widespread backlash from church members, parents and staff, a decision to remain open for the foreseeable future was made.

“Some parents were really, really worried when they found out that the CDO was going to close,” said Emily Roan, the mother of a 2-year-old and 6-year-old enrolled in the program. “I feel hopeful, but I’m also so scared that something could happen.”

Her fear is largely based on the lack of space for children at other facilities in Krum. Only two other child care centers open to the public are licensed in town — Nonna’s Kid Kountry and Loving Hearts Christian Academy Daycare — and they don’t have space to accommodate all the children who would be displaced if Children’s Day Out were to shutter its doors.

Shahan began her tenure at the church on July 1, and her first sermon was given the following Sunday.

“This is not the way I would have wanted to start in the church, but I’m trying to look at it as: God can use anything for good,” Shahan said. “This has not been as easy first three weeks, but I’m so excited about going forward.”

Roan said the June 28 injury to a child was just “the last straw.”

While she could understand the injured toddler’s parents being upset, she didn’t think it was necessary to bring the issue to the public via social media. She said she would feel the same way if one of her kids had been scratched up.

“Kids do crazy things all the time,” Roan said. “You can’t control that.”

An investigation headed by divisions of the Texas Department of Health and Human Services found that the child care’s director did not sufficiently supervise staff and that two caregivers didn’t intervene when one child scratched another child inside a playhouse on the playground.

Investigators made several recommendations to improve safety in a letter sent to a church official on Friday.

Excluding the most recent case involving the scratched toddler, a Texas Department of Family and Protective Services database lists 43 safety violations at the facility since July 1, 2016.

“We very much deeply recognize, and we are deeply disturbed by, the things that did slip through the cracks,” Shahan said.

While licensed facilities of a comparable size had an average of 1.8 violations of the highest severity in the past two years, the day care housed in Krum First United Methodist had 13 — without including the injury reported on July 1.

In total, the child care has over six times more violations than the state average for similarly sized facilities, according to a HHS database obtained by the Denton Record-Chronicle.

Christine Mann, a press officer for HHS, said the injury was self-reported to the commission on July 1.

Roan pointed out that not all of the violations are as serious as they seem.

“Those rules and how they rank them is kind of crazy,” Roan said.

The two most recent violations in the most severe category were noted for a problem with a background check and a mop bucket full of water left in a bathroom meant for 3- and 4-year-olds.

Roan claimed she witnessed far rougher treatment at a facility her daughter was briefly enrolled at in Lewisville than she has ever seen in Krum, but the Lewisville center has comparably much better inspection reports. According to publicly available data, that facility had only one safety violation reported since it opened in 2014.

In her reckoning, a lack of communication between church leaders and parents was at the heart of the child care center’s problems. She pointed toward the previous pastor and child care director as the root of that problem.

The previous pastor left before serious discussions about closing the child care began, and the previous child care director submitted her resignation after that point.

Roan was told by the new director, Christen Rodriguez, that the child responsible for scratching another student across the face has also left the facility.

Her perception that communication was lacking was exacerbated by Shahan’s arrival. Shortly after her arrival, the new reverend had the facility’s social media accounts and website shut down while criticisms and questions flooded in.

While she was initially upset, Roan believes shutting down those channels of communication was a necessary precaution until the dust settled.

With new leadership in place, Shahan and Roan said the recent instability has brought the small community closer together while providing a natural chance to reassess and improve.

MARSHALL REID can be reached at 940-566-6862 and via Twitter at @MarshallKReid.

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