Reports of lack of staff supervision at East Tennessee State University’s day care facility for students with children have prompted the school to voluntarily suspend the facility’s license.
An ETSU spokesman said Little Buccaneers’ license was suspended by the university Tuesday and the school is seeking to meet with Tennessee Department of Human Services representatives to reinstate the license.
Beverly Wiginton, director of the Child Studies Center and Little Bucs programs, said there are very strict rules from DHS about maintaining the safety and supervision of young children. A lapse of supervision for any amount of time is considered a violation of those rules.
For example, meal times must be supervised by a caregiver. If that caregiver leaves to get another spoon or a carton of milk, that would be considered a lapse of supervision. This happened at Little Bucs.
There were also two instances where children ran away from caregivers.
“We’re required to be within easy reach of children and they were out of, out of reach,” she said.
Wiginton said there have been six lapses of supervision incidents at Little Bucs since 2008.
More recently, though, there were three incidents in 2011 and one on Jan. 24. After the January incident, DHS put Little Bucs on a probationary license for 60 days. Another incident happened Monday. Tuesday, ETSU voluntarily suspended Little Bucs’ license.
Wiginton hoped Little Bucs would be open after spring break, which is next week.
“We’re working very hard to come up with a corrective plan of action to submit to DHS and hopefully they will see that it is going to resolve some of these issues,” Wiginton said.
Wiginton said no children were hurt during any of the lapses of supervision, though she acknowledged the potential for danger did exist.
Around 75 children between the ages of 3 months and 5 years are cared for at Little Bucs.
“This certainly creates a hardship on the families, because we still have two days left for this week and then we’ve got spring break, but the rest of the semester as well,” Wiginton said.
Wiginton said student workers who were scheduled to work at Little Bucs have offered their services as baby sitters until DHS reinstates the license.
Child care at Little Bucs is $6 per hour for preschool-age children and $7 per hour for infants and toddlers. Many students can get a grant that helps with the cost.
Little Bucs employs three full-time teaching staff, a secretary, the director, five graduate assistants and around 65 student workers.
Wiginton would not comment on if any employees faced discipline from the lack of supervision incidents.
“It’s the university’s policy not to comment on personnel issues,” Wiginton said.