Antrim’s learning center director shutters doors, files motion in attempt to rebuild reputation 

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Monday, May 08, 2017 11:17PM

The director of an early learning center in Antrim filed a motion for reconsideration May 5 in response to a state Department of Health and Human Services appeals unit decision to revoke the center’s license.

Blossoms Early Learning Center’s  child care license was revoked last April after the department cited Director Heidi Risman-Jones with multiple alleged violations including corporal punishment, shaming children for toileting accidents and force feeding.

Risman-Jones, who has been an early child care provider for more than 25 years, said many of the charges against her didn’t warrant citings, and the department used inflammatory language to create the charges. She also said the state’s licensing system puts child care providers at risk for public ridicule and bankruptcy.

Jake Leon, DHHS communications director, said the appeals unit will only grant reconsideration if the motion provides evidence that was not available at the time of the hearing, it demonstrates the presiding officer was in error concerning the interpretation of an administrative or federal rule, or it shows the decision is contrary to the controlling law.

The motion had not been made public by deadline on Monday, which would have demonstrated if the document fell under any of the department’s criteria.

“My reputation is worth the fight for me, although it has created a financial hardship for my family,” Risman-Jones said in an email to the Ledger-Transcript on Friday regarding the decision to keep fighting despite having already shuttered the business.

Risman-Jones said she closed the center in late April.

The learning center remained open for nearly a year after DHHS issued the order of revocation. Risman-Jones said she would have liked to keep the center open until the end of May, although she was forced to close earlier because of difficulties of running a center with a revocation, and concerns from staff members that their reputations would be hurt as a result of the process.

Risman-Jones said the state clearly didn’t believe any child was in danger, or they would have closed the center. 

The unit’s revocation document points to one instance when Risman-Jones put a 2-year-old child in a “bear-hug restraint” while the child thrashed her head around for about three minutes. In another instance, it says Risman-Jones grabbed a 2-year-old child by the elbows, dragged her backward into the preschool room, and dropped her on a mat. Both instances were considered corporal punishment.

Risman-Jones said both situations occurred children who were throwing temper tantrums. In both instances, she said the children were not hurt, and that their bodies were treated with care and respect.

“No one enjoys tantrums, but 2-year-olds have temper tantrums and it does appear violent and thrashing,” Risman-Jones said.

The revocation also says Risman-Jones shamed and humiliated children for toileting accidents, saying things like “it’s disgusting to go in your pull-up, you need to go to the potty.”

Risman-Jones claims shaming and humiliating “just did not occur.”

“Proper English language was used in how to keep an area sanitary to staff,” she said.

The hearing regarding Risman-Jones’ appeal took place on Dec. 21 and 22 of last year.

Risman-Jones said the state used more than 50 percent of the time during the hearing, leaving her with only about a third. She said it was not enough time to hear from all of her witnesses.

“Many parents and staff testified due to an open door policy and free-flowing rooms no shaming and humiliating took place but the state deemed their testimony was not relevant,” she said, adding that her entire defense was not considered.

Leon said there is no timeframe for the hearings examiner to rule on the motion for reconsideration.

Abby Kessler can be reached at 924-7172, ext. 234 or akessler@ledgertranscript.com.