ATLANTA — Surveillance video shows a worker at a well-respected non-profit daycare toss a 5-year-old child to the floor.
Sheltering Arms is one of metro Atlanta’s largest and most respected non-profit daycare organizations; it receives more than $3 million in state funding every year.
Yet video obtained by 11Alive News captures an injury to a 5-year-old child as a male teacher picks him up and throws him to the floor. The incident happened in March 2015.
According to investigative documents, the boy suffered facial injuries and a large knot on his head. Moments later in the same video, the worker tries to console the child and treats his injury with an ice pack.
State investigators fined Sheltering Arms $499. The worker was put on probation and later fired.
“That’s horrible, that’s horrible I can’t explain how something like that could happen,” said Carolyn Salvador, Executive Director of the Georgia Child Care Association. Salvador was commenting about the incident, but not about Sheltering Arms in particular. She added serious safety violations are down in Georgia compared to a few years ago.
Yet state investigation documents obtained through a Georgia Open Records request indicate several other core safety rules were violated at Sheltering Arms this year. At its Cobb County facility, a 4-year-old was forgotten and left in a classroom unsupervised for at least 20 minutes by herself, crying. The Lawrenceville location was cited for leaving a child alone on a playground, though only for a few minutes.
“Supervision is one of the most important things in child care,” Salvador said.
Sheltering Arms was not the only facility cited for rules violations. The Renaissance Learning Center is another popular state and federally funded day care center that has been cited for serious violations this year. The citations were for teachers taking care of too many children, broken playground equipment and food safety violations. Investigators also reported seeing caregivers at Renaissance failing to wash their hands after diapering babies, and failing to strap toddlers into high chairs. It also received a citation for lack of proof of criminal background checks on workers.
Missing proof of criminal background checks seems to be a common violation. Several YMCA daycare facilities were also cited for not having proof of background checks on file at each site.
DECAL’s Deputy Commissioner Kirstie Lewis said of the the violations, “Any rule violation is not acceptable but we do know that programs have them sometimes and our job is to help them quickly come into compliance and stay in compliance.”.
Sheltering Arms released a statement addressing the rough treatment at its East Point location. The statement said:
“Sheltering Arms serves 2,500 children each day, and this type of behavior goes against everything for which we stand. We have terminated the employee in the video in question and have updated our communications policies to ensure any future issues are addressed more rapidly by executive staff.”
A statement from Greater Atlanta YMCA Marketing Director Russ Davis said,
“The YMCA of Metro Atlanta is committed to providing an early learning environment with a focus on safety, health, social growth and academic achievement. As such, our Centers are accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). Additionally, our Centers and practices are reviewed frequently by Bright from the Start licensed consultants.Occasionally, reviews provide feedback for improvements and we are diligent in the implementation of those recommendations. Follow-up reviews consistently show our actions have addressed any previously identified concerns. All of our staff are required to clear background checks and in some cases, may also be required to clear fingerprint checks. The absence of paperwork in some of the Centers for these checks, does not mean the checks were not completed. We have a procedure for paperwork to be in our Association office. As a part of our Association process and practice, we will continue to review and follow-up for consistency in all Centers.”