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State can't cite Cumberland childcare facility accused of giving kids melatonin without consent

Kidz Life Childcare Ministry operates legally, however, they are an Unlicensed Registered Ministry that doesn’t accept CCDF federal vouchers
kidz life daycare
Posted at 11:40 AM, Feb 22, 2023

CUMBERLAND — The state agency that licenses and inspects Indiana childcare facilities says they can’t take action against a Cumberland childcare ministry for allegedly dispensing melatonin to children without parental consent.

The state cannot take action because they are an Unlicensed Registered Ministry that doesn't accept CCDF federal vouchers.

Unlicensed does not mean illegal. In Indiana, there are many different types of childcare facilities including licensed centers, licensed homes and registered ministries.

Registered ministries are registered with the state’s Family and Social Services Administration (FSSA) and have to follow basic health and safety requirements. Registered ministries that do not take federal vouchers do not have to follow child-to-staff ratios or meet supervision requirements.

“As such, we have no authority to take action on issues involving administering medication, vitamins or supplements,” said Marni Lemons, FSSA’s Deputy Communications Director, in an email to WRTV.

On the other hand, the childcare worker has been charged.

Court records show Tonya Voris, 52, has pleaded not guilty and is due back in Hancock County court on April 5. Voris was fired last month as the executive director of Kidz Life Childcare Ministry and faces 17 charges, 11 counts of neglect of a dependent and six counts of reckless supervision by a childcare provider.

Had the melatonin incident occurred at a licensed childcare center, licensed childcare home or a registered ministry that accepts federal vouchers, FSSA would have the authority to take enforcement action against the facility.

“Licensed programs have health and safety laws and rules that cover medications, safe environments and documentation surrounding medications,” said Lemons. “The requirement to provide a safe environment includes ensuring that medication is locked up or made inaccessible to children and that any physician order, parental written permission or over-the-counter directions are followed and medication is correctly administered.”

The state inspects registered ministries twice a year. If they do not comply with health and safety requirements, the state can revoke their registration.

When FSSA is inspecting a facility, either during a routine inspection or looking into a complaint, they look for whether staff are properly administering medications.

If FSSA finds a childcare facility in violation of that regulation, the state can grant a probationary license or decertify the facility from accepting CCDF.

If a childcare facility is placed on probation, they have to post the probationary license in a public area.

While FSSA can’t cite Kidz Life Childcare Ministry for improperly dispensing melatonin, FSSA does conduct inspections at registered ministries for basic health and safety regulations.

FSSA inspected Kidz Life Childcare Ministry on February 16, just days after prosecutors charged Tonya Voris.

The inspection was in direct response to the criminal charges, according to Lemons.

On February 16, FSSA found one staff member did not have a current background check on file.

That same Kidz Life employee still has not submitted a consent form to allow FSSA to pursue having the staffer fingerprinted for a background check, said Lemons.

According to FSSA’s website, the background check issue still has not been resolved.

On December 28, 2022, FSSA also found a safe sleep violation at Kidz Life.

“At time of inspection a 6 month old male infant in the Infant classroom asleep in a swing with a blanket covering him,” read the inspection report.

That same day, FSSA also found cleaning chemicals labeled “KEEP OUT OF REACH OF CHILDREN” were accessible to children.

“Front Area/Hallway: Clorox wipes, purse, and hand sanitizer on black storage cubby -Unlocked Utility Closet: cleaning chemicals, bleach, ice melt and hand soap -Girls Restroom: Glade air freshner in cabinet near door; A & D Ointment on diaper changing table,” read the inspection report from December 28.

The inspection report said Kidz Life Childcare Ministry corrected the issue on January 2.

WRTV Investigates reached out to Kidz Life Childcare Ministry about the violations and we are waiting to hear back.

Licensed providers, such as licensed homes and centers, are required to complete safe sleep and CPR training, do criminal background checks, and follow proper child/staff ratios, to name a few.

In Indiana, you must have a license if you are watching six or more children unrelated to the provider.

A child care provider can be unlicensed and operating within the law, but only if they have five or fewer children in their care that are not related to the provider.

A child care provider can be unlicensed and operating within the law, but only if they have five or fewer children in their care that are not related to the provider.

FSSA can issue a cease-and-desist letter if a child care is suspected of operating illegally.

If parents are not sure what type of childcare their child is attending, they can visit the state's childcare finder website, which will also include inspection reports.

Licensed homes and centers are the two other types of facilities. Not only do they have to follow child-to-staff ratios and proper supervision of children, but their staff must also be trained in safe sleep and CPR. They're inspected once a year.

Experts say you should ask your child's daycare about their license, as well ask about the child-to-staff ratios in your child's classroom.

An illegally operated childcare facility is when the operator has too many children, but they're not licensed or registered with the state.

If a provider has six or more children, they should have a license.

Parents should also be asking about background checks. Almost all types of child cares have to do criminal background checks, including registered ministries and licensed facilities. They have to check employees every three years.

HOW TO CHECK A CHILD CARE FACILITY

  • Plug in a provider's name to ChildCareFinder.IN.gov [childcarefinder.in.gov]and look for complaints, inspection reports and any pending enforcement.
  • Use your eyes and ears when visiting. Are they following safe sleep? Is equipment working? Are children strapped into their high chairs?
  • Drop by the child's day care unexpectedly during the day. What is seen at pickup and drop off may be very different than what's happening during the middle of the day?
  • Ask to see the provider's license or registration, which should be posted in a public area. If the provider is on probation, it will say so on the license, along with the reasons why.
  • Ask to see a copy of the day care's discipline policy. Corporal punishment is not illegal in the state of Indiana.
  • Ask what their current child-to-staff ratio is. Experts say accidents are more likely to happen when staffers are watching a lot of children.
  • Ask if the provider is part of the state's voluntary rating system, called Paths to Quality. The state said this helps guarantee they're meeting and/or exceeding licensing requirements regardless of type of day care.
  • If you use an unlicensed facility, know they do not have to submit to background checks, CPR training, safe sleep training and other requirements. Ask to see proof your provider has completed these.