License could be revoked at Antrim child care center

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Tuesday, April 04, 2017 6:15AM
Dec. 2, 2015: Department performs complaint investigation.April 15, 2016: Order to revoke a child care program license issued.April 27: Appeal filed.Dec. 21-22: Hearing takes place.Feb. 1: Record closed.

A decision is expected to come down soon regarding a license revocation of an Antrim child care center.

Antrim’s Blossoms Early Learning Center was issued an order to revoke a child care program license last April, according to the state’s Department of Health and Human Services Administrative Appeals Unit.

The revocation notice states Director Heidi Risman-Jones violated multiple counts under for the use of corporal punishment and other forms of discipline that are harmful to the emotional well-being of children at the center.

“The department has determined that your continual uses of inappropriate forms of discipline and actions that are not taking into consideration developmentally appropriate practice are harmful to the physical and emotional well-being of the children in care,” the revocation order reads.

The learning center was contacted for comment, but a voice message was not returned by deadline on Monday.

Risman-Jones was able to submit a written request for an adjudicative process within 10 days from the date of receiving the order. Jake Leon, DHHS communications director, said the appellant’s attorney entered her appearance on July 21, 2016 officially notifying the department that she was representing Risman-Jones.

The case was scheduled for Nov. 17. The appellant moved to continue the November date and the department assented.

Leon said the hearing took place on Dec. 21 and 22. At the request of the parties, the record was held open until February 1, for written submissions.

It typically takes 30-45 days to make a decision after final arguments have been heard.

She was cited after she reportedly pulled children, and restrained children by forcefully holding them in place while disciplining them.

According to the document, in one instance a child, who is referred to as “Child A”, who was 2 years old at the time, “yelled with delight” at the sight of an outdoor pool. The complaint says Risman-Jones pulled the child aside while others were running to the pool and told her she could not yell inside. The child kept screaming so she put her in a bear-hug restraint, while the child thrashed her head around for about three minutes. 

The document describes three more incidents, which include forcebaly holding Child A down, having children sit for too long during story time, and grabbing a two-year-old child by the elbows and dragging her backwards into the preschool room and dropping her on a mat.

According to the order, a former staff member confirmed the complaint allegations that Risman-Jones had used aggressive physical contact with children in an attempt to control their behavior. The staff member said she had witnessed the director forcefully making children stay in place for activities regardless of their attention span.

The staff member said there were several instances with Child A, who the director was “just terrible to.”

A different former staff member confirmed the allegations that the center Risman-Jones had used aggressive physical contact with children in an attempt to control their behavior. She said it mostly happened with Child A.

Child A’s parents also confirmed the allegations.

“One time I could hear [Child A] screaming from the parking lot, they were in the yard. I came and watched through the window. [Center director] was trying to force her into a carriage (wagon). She was pressing [Child A] down to get her to stay in it. I questioned her about it. She [center director] said she was throwing rocks. [Child A] just turned two,” the document says.

The department determined that Risman-Jones had constituted aggressive physical contact, punitive time out and attempts to control children’s behavior in a manner that was not providing positive guidance. It also states that the program has failed to comply with previous action plans approved by the department on May 4, 2015.

The revocation order cites repeated violations for shaming or humiliating children for toileting accidents. Former staff members described three instances when Risman-Jones shamed children for toileting accidents.

“She (center director) would say things like ‘it’s disgusting to go in your pull-up, you need to go to the potty,’ to [Child J]’” one of the complaint’s states.

They said Child J was about two and a half or three years old at the time.

The order states Risman-Jones failed to keep information about children confidential. It says she identified a child with special needs to someone touring the program, and made written notations about the children’s health issues on attendance records in plain sight of other families.

The department’s review of program records revealed a summary of “Staff Meeting Wed. March 4, 2015” where Risman-Jones indicated that she expected children to be in full control of their bodily functions, which the department determined is written evidence of shaming and humiliating.

A document states the program failed to comply with a previous corrective action plan back in May 2015.

The order also cites a substantial violation for forcing children to eat including spooning food into the mouth of a child who had repeatedly indicated she was “done,” “shoving” bottles into a child’s mouth and “overly coaching” children to eat to the point where the child would cry, and repeated violation for her actions that were not nurturing or encouraging and didn’t provide for the emotional and physical well being of each child.

In the document, a staff member said when they quit they told Risman-Jones it was because of school, but it was actually because they couldn’t work there anymore.

“It was the way she treated kids,” the staff member said.

An email dated in November of 2015 from Child A’s parent to the center director states formal resignation from the center.

“As you know from our previous meeting, I do not agree with the way you treat children at your center,” the email reads. “With the recent departure of [a former staff member] I no longer feel the center is a safe and enriching place for my daughter to spend most of her day.”

The parent said they had come across the center’s licensing report from last year and was “shocked” by some of the things they read and “saddened” to see that the behavior had not changed.

Deborah Dupuis, senior hearings examiner for the Department of Health and Human Services Administrative Appeals Unit, said between Jan. 1, 2015 and Dec. 31, 2016 the Administrative Appeals Unit handled 2,276 appeals. Of those, 11 were child care licensing cases and of those 11, six went to hearing. It has seven hearing officers.