Investigation leads to reprimand for child care facility

A Columbus day care provider is operating on a probationary license after state inspectors found several violations.

Country Kids Daycare & Preschool, at 6900 W. Georgetown Road, was placed on probation until Sept. 30 by the Indiana Family & Social Services Administration after the agency looked into a complaint about the facility, said Marni Lemons, administration spokeswoman.

The May 24 complaint suggested the facility, which has been licensed since March 2002 and is operated by Michelle Lutes, was not complying with the correct child-to-staff ratio and was not following a safe-sleep policy, Lemons said.

An investigator made an unannounced visit June 7 to Country Kids Daycare and found 13 children present with one staff member, Lemons said.

Five of the children were younger than 16 months old, Lemons said.

For licensed day care facilities, the state’s child-to-staff ratio is 6-to-1 for infants through 24 months, Lemons said. In Country Kids Daycare’s case, two of the six children needed to be at least 16 months old and walking to meet the ratio requirements, she said.

Otherwise the ratio of children to caregivers is 4-to-1, according to state regulations.

There is a 10-to-1 child-to-staff ratio for children starting at birth through age 6. No more than three of the 10 children may be under 16 months of age and must be walking, according to the state regulations. For children ages 3 and up, there is a 12-to-1 ratio.

At the Country Kids facility, the inspector found an infant asleep in a swing and a second infant was sleeping in a bouncy chair in a bathroom with the door closed, Lemons said. A third infant was sleeping in a bouncy chair in the kitchen, Lemons said.

State regulations require licensees to provide a separate crib, portacrib or playpen in which each infant or toddler can sleep in. Children should not be left unattended and need to be supervised at all times, according to state rules.

Regarding the child in the bathroom, Lutes contends the door wasn’t shut.

The investigator also found another baby in the home sleeping in a crib with a blanket, which isn’t permitted under the state’s administrative code, Lemons said. No items are allowed to be in the crib with an infant, she said.

Lutes said having a 10-month-old baby in a crib with a blanket wouldn’t happen again.

The day care will continue to receive unannounced visits from state investigators at least once a month to ensure it is in compliance with state regulations, Lemons said. When a facility is put on probation, it can either be for three or six months but cannot exceed 12 months, Lemons said.

Country Kids Daycare & Preschool will remain on probation until Sept. 30, she said.

Depending on whether the identified issues are corrected, Country Kids Daycare could be issued another probationary license or non-enforcement action could be taken at the end of the probationary period. Non-enforcement action means investigators could decide to revoke Lutes’ day care license, Lemons said.

Lutes has received information from a local child care resource and referral agency in Indianapolis, Child Care Answers, which provides coaching and other assistance in order to come into compliance with the law while the day care remains on probation, Lemons said.

Lutes described the staff-ratio complaint as a simple misunderstanding.

Lutes said since she operates two day care facilities on her property, she was covering for another person at her second facility at the time of the visit.

Lutes said she has since hired another employee to ensure there are no further issues.

“Everything’s taken care of,” Lutes said. “I’ve been doing day care for 16 years and we’ve never had any issues before.”

Lemons confirmed that to be true.

Rules for Indiana daycare providers

Individuals who operate a licensed day care in Indiana receive annual visits from the Indiana Family & Social Services Administration to ensure they are in compliance with state regulations. However, any complaint made against a facility is also required to be investigated by the state agency.

Individuals are permitted to operate a day care without a license in Indiana as long as there are five or fewer children in the home that are not related to the operator of the facility.

When a childcare provider is placed on probation, unannounced visits are made monthly by investigators with the state agency. However, visits could be performed more than once if the agency feels it is necessary to ensure they remain in compliance with the law.

To find information about daycare providers in the area, visit the Indiana Family & Social Services Administration website at in.gov/fssa/childcarefinder/.

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Matt Kent is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at 812-379-5712 or mkent@therepublic.com