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Who's watching your children?

By Nolan Clay, Randy Ellis and Ryan McNeill Modified: November 23, 2007 at 8:22 am •  Published: October 28, 2007
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> One of the child abusers struck his 3-month-old daughter in the face because she wouldn’t stop crying. “I lost my temper and hit her very hard,” PhilipÖ Hurte of Oklahoma City told DHS. Another child abuser broke his baby boy’s leg.

One man admitted to police that he shot up a bedroom door and kicked it to get to another man.

A repeat drug offender got an exemption to work at a Sulphur day care even though she killed someone in a 2000 car collision while high on marijuana.

A three-time felon got a waiver so his wife could run a day care even though he once admitted stabbing another man with a knife. “I was trying to hurt him,” the man told a judge.

Another man, who pleaded guilty to assaulting a girlfriend with a baseball bat, told The Oklahoman he deserved the exemption so his wife could have a day care. He now insists he used only his fists and not the bat.

“If you had done something wrong in your life, wouldn’t you want someone to give you a second chance?” said Corrie L. Johnson, 38, of Oklahoma City. “Isn’t everyone entitled to one? Now, if I had a crime against, let’s say a kid, then I could see your point. It was not against a kid. It was against a woman who was cheating on me and broke my heart. It wasn’t against some little kid.”

Johnson pointed out he is now a church deacon, that the assault was 15 years ago and that he works elsewhere so he isn’t around the day care children.

Many of the exemptions went to those who wanted to work in or open day cares despite criminal pasts. Others went to men who had run-ins with the law and their wives or girlfriends wanted to operate day cares in their homes.

Some of those given exemptions from the ban served only probation but others spent years in prison.

DHS states in the waiver letters that the exemption was granted after “careful consideration” but DHS workers apparently do not examine court records themselves very often.

DHS also has given exemptions even when the applicant has not turned in a required explanation.

Some given exemptions outright lied to DHS.

One Chouteau home day care owner and her husband told DHS officials his guilty plea for contributing to the delinquency of a minor involved him taking home a younger brother who had been drinking. He actually bought alcohol at a convenience store for an underage girl and went driving around with her, court records show.

Applicants for exemptions are supposed to include the opinions of reliable community members. Some references are dubious. One applicant relied on the assistant manager of a 7-Eleven convenience store where he shopped. “That’s not adequate,” Hendrick said.

The decision to give an exemption has sometimes turned out poorly.

In one case, DHS last year gave an exemption to a felon, Doris J. Potts, to run an Oklahoma City day care even though she had been convicted eight times and been to prison. Her crimes included cocaine distribution, theft, escape and illegal possession of a gun. The day care was closed this year after DHS found Potts, 40, had gotten in trouble with the law again, allegedly for drugs, in January.

DHS waivers Interactive database


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