N4T Investigators: Child Care Checkup - KVOA | KVOA.com | Tucson, Arizona

N4T Investigators: Child Care Checkup

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TUCSON – Out of 401 licensed child care centers listed in Tucson, 9 were ordered to pay $400 or more in penalties after state inspections in 2017.

News Four Tucson Investigators asked some of those 9 facilities about the more serious violations. All violations carry a maximum penalty of $100 each.

At Pequenos Gigantes inspectors viewed a video that showed 2 staff members holding down a child while another person is attempting to place something in the child’s mouth, according to a report from the Arizona Department of Health Services. ADHS denied a public records request to provide that video.

Staff also admitted putting Tajin chili powder on their finger and threatening to put it in children’s mouths, according to the inspection report.

Pequenos Gigantes did not respond to a request for comment.

Generally, facilities that regularly care for 4 or more children for money are required to get a state license. They are subject to unannounced annual inspections and inspections after complaints.

At Herencia Guadalupana Lab Schools' previous location a 2-year-old was left behind in a classroom while the other children left on a walking field trip, according to the inspector.

That location is closed. The new location and the old location have the same director. The director said the previous violations are not related to the new campus.

At The Apple Tree Learning Centers a child was left buckled in a van, and the director did not realize the child did not know how to unbuckle their seat belt, according to the report.

The facility did not respond to a request for a comment.

At Small Hands Big Dreams, surveyors reported waiting several minutes to be allowed inside. They reported a lack of supervision throughout the home, including a child in a laundry room with chemicals and a snake aquarium, according to the report.

Amy Monreal is the owner of Small Hands Big Dreams. It is considered a small group home licensed to care for 10 children.

“I had bad employees,” Monreal said, “and when parents were told not to come in when I had kids here already, 10 is my limit, they would come in and drop them off. And my employees would not stop them.”

She said she got rid of those employees and she is not worried about future violations.

“They trust me with their kids,” Monreal said, “and they love the employees I have with me now. And they feel safe with my kids.”

Amani Academy was ordered to pay the biggest penalty of $1,700. The facility reached an agreement with the Arizona Department of Health Service to pay $600. The violations were mostly because of rooms being filled over capacity.

Abdullahi Omar is one of the owners and has 2 of his own children at the facility. He invited News Four Tucson inside to take a tour.

“We're utilizing all the guidance they have given us,” Omar said. “And we thank them for that guidance and the help they provided us so far in trying to be familiar with all the rules.”

The center primarily deals with the refugee community.

Maha Abdul Jabbar’s son with autism goes to the facility.

“I totally consider this place as a safe zone for him,” she said. “Everybody is very cooperative. They love him. He loves them.”

The centers are not required to notify parents about violations.

The Arizona Department of Health Services posts 3 years of inspections on its website.

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