Parents scrambling after Polk County day care abruptly shuts down

8 On Your Side

FROSTPROOF, Fla. (WFLA) – Parents in Polk County are scrambling to find alternatives after a day care abruptly shut down. A mother is asking 8 On Your Side Investigates to uncover why the facility abruptly closed.

“My whole world was crashing down because I didn’t know where my kids were going to be at,” said Alex Jones.

Jones works full-time and raises two daughters alone. For the past year, her girls – ages 6 and 7 – have spent their afternoons at the Learning Ladder Child Development Center in Frostproof.

8 On Your Side stopped by the facility on Friday. The lights were off and no one answered the door.

Jones said she got a call from the Florida Department of Children and Families on Tuesday. DCF is the state agency that’s responsible for inspecting childcare facilities.

“They told me that the Learning Ladders day care center was going to be shutting down effective immediately and indefinitely,” said Jones.

Right now, Jones is struggling to find a nearby affordable day care. However, the closure has her concerned for a bigger reason.

“Like did someone hurt them? Did someone yell at them?” she said. “Why it was shut down so suddenly?”

8 On Your Side Investigates read through DCF’s publicly available reports online. They show just this year, inspectors found violations during 11 visits.

According to online records, day care staff didn’t complete required training in August. In July, inspectors stated they found peeling paint, exposed electrical outlets and dirty bedding. In May, it’s alleged staff wasn’t keeping proper records of kids at the facility.

That’s not all.

8 On Your Side Investigates discovered DCF inspectors found violations during 11 visits in 2018.

According to DCF, inspectors found unscreened individuals left alone with kids in 2017.

“If it was such a bad place why did they continue to let it kind of continue running?” Jones said.

8 On Your Side asked DCF to explain the number of violations required before a facility’s license is revoked. As of Friday, they have not answered that question.

However, a spokeswoman sent 8 On Your Side the following statement:

On August 19, the Department of Children and Families (DCF) notified the Learning Ladder Child Development Center of the department’s intent to revoke the facility’s license and impose over $3,600 in fines for several licensing standards violations.

Chapter 120, Florida Statutes, allows the provider to request an administrative hearing within 21 days of revocation notification. The provider failed to request a hearing, and on September 10, DCF issued an order to immediately cease all operations at the facility. During the 21-day period, the department monitored to the facility to ensure the safety of any remaining children.”

We have also asked DCF to explain the specific violations that led to this closure.

We will continue to follow this story.

In the meantime, the owner tells 8 On Your Side Investigates DCF got this wrong. She said the violations were minor and she cared about the kids in her care.

If you would like to look up your child’s day care, just enter the name of the facility on DCF’s website here.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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