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Del City child care home's condemnation raises serious questions

DHS has provided home child care licenses to numerous Oklahoma operators who have not obtained required city permits. The condemnation of a Del City child care home raises serious question about whether the agency is adequately protecting the health and safety of children kept at those homes.
BY RANDY ELLIS Published: November 28, 2010

A check of the DHS website, however, revealed that DHS has licensed more than 200 large family child care homes to operate in Oklahoma City — most with a listed capacity of 12 children.

Randall said city officials were unaware of that, but she would have them look into it.

Battle for data

Del City has had to battle DHS over the last four years for a list of child care homes operating there, Leatherbee said. At one point, DHS agreed to provide a list of child care homes, but refused to provide addresses, he said. Ultimately, Del City had to submit an official Open Records request to obtain a list of the child care homes and their addresses, he said.

“I don't think the city should have to use the Open Records Act just to try to work with DHS on something we jointly regulate,” he said.

Sheree Powell, spokeswoman for DHS, said employees in the agency's office of child care services said they were “unaware of any request for a list of homes in Del City.”

Leatherbee called Powell's comment “comical.”

Powell subsequently provided The Oklahoman with a list of 21 homes and addresses that DHS has licensed to operate as child care homes in Del City and invited a reporter to share the information with Del City officials.

Powell said DHS does not have a requirement for child care home applicants to obtain city permits before being licensed by the state because city codes vary from one city to the next and “not all cities require a permit.”

“We do advise all new facilities when they apply to check with their cities regarding any codes or permits as they may have additional requirements,” she said.

Safety is top concern

The Oklahoma Commission on Children and Youth conducted an investigation of DHS' handling and supervision of Del City's Brandon Jones Family Child Care Home after it was condemned and closed.

Investigator Vincent noted that Brandon Jones' mother, Sharyle Jones, operated a child care home for years before voluntarily closing the home in 2005 after being threatened with license revocation because of a “pattern of noncompliance.”

The agency licensed Brandon Jones to open a family child care home the following year after he assured a licensing staff member “his mother would not assist him in providing child care.”

Less than a year later, he hired his mother as an assistant. DHS licensing officials noted that on at least 11 occasions Brandon Jones' mother was the only adult present when they arrived for their inspections, although Brandon Jones would arrive later.

Over the 3 ½ years Brandon Jones operated a child care home, he was cited for violations for mouse droppings in the kitchen, uncovered electrical outlets, a heater in a play room that did not have a guard to protect children from getting burned, mold on a bathroom wall, an exposed sewage pipe that did not have a cap, expired eggs in the refrigerator, a television cable cord hanging from the house within reach of children and grass over 6 feet tall in an outside play area.

Other citations were for not having a battery in a smoke detector, allowing his car insurance to expire, incomplete children's records, playing an adult television show while children were awake, broken toys, not having an approved heat source, having a broken rail on a playpen, a lack of a smoke detector in the infant sleeping room and ripped floor mats.

Licensing officials did not view any of those violations to be serious enough to push for closing the home until it was condemned.

Brandon and Sharyle Jones could not be reached for comment. Brandon Jones' last known telephone number had been disconnected.