— A daycare center has been shut down by state officials who allege gross incompetence, negligence and misconduct on the part of the owners and workers.
That misconduct included allegations of putting duct tape on children and scaring them with a witch statue.
Just 4 Kids Day Care and Learning Center, located at 442 Cemetery Road in Hamlin, was closed by officials from the Pennsylvania Office of Child Development and Early Learning. The facility was shut down by an order from that department on March 25.
All of the children were removed from the facility and its doors are now closed. Nobody is answering the phone at the center, which has been in operation since 2006.
The owner of the center is listed as Doreen Tomasetti whose address is listed at The Hideout in Lake Ariel.
According to the order issued by the department, investigations were conducted on March 18, 19, 20 and 22. That investigation was conducted by officials from the Department of Public Welfare, North Central - Scranton Regional Office of Child Development and Early Learning.
It says they were a result of "complaints."
Media spokesperson Anne Bale said it is likely the complaints came from parents, though she did not have specifics.
As for the investigation, she said officials spent time at the facility, conducted interviews and looked for violations. They also were able to go through files and records, she said.
Following the investigation, the department issued the order along with a letter outlining the alleged violations at the daycare center.
Here are some of the alleged violations:
• That two staff members "would hold child #2 upside down by the feet to stop him from biting staff."
• It also alleged the same two staff members would force the same child "to walk around in his underwear as a punishment for soiling his pants."
Page 2 of 3 - • That the same two staff members would "threaten and scare" the same child "with a witch statue as punishment for misbehaving."
• The same two members would direct another child to "retrieve this statue so staff could use it to scare" the child as punishment.
• It alleges that a staff member "has cursed in front of children in care at the facility." It alleges that same staff member "has yelled and screamed" at a child for "not sitting in the 'time out' chair."
• It says that one staff member "admitted" to the investigator "that she utilized a belt and a blue plastic chair and the tray on the chair to restrain" a child.
• It alleges that two staff members "have placed duct tape around the hands and feet of child #2 in order to keep him still while he sat in the blue chair."
• Allegations that a staff member "would remove food from children before the children were finished eating when they accidentally dropped their food on the floor."
• Alleges that one child "would be forced to stay at a table in a corner near the wall for hours until the child finished the food."
"These violations demonstrate gross incompetence, negligence and misconduct operating a facility likely to constitute immediate and serious danger to the life or health of the children in care," was the conclusion of the report.
The day care had 12 children between the ages of three and nine.
Bale said that the case is being appealed by the owner.
That appeal will go first to the department's Bureau of Hearings and Appeals, where it will be determined if the charges were correct to be filed.
Page 3 of 3 - That decision can then be appealed to the Secretary of Welfare and eventually to the Commonwealth Court.
All materials relating to the case have also been turned over the Pennsylvania State Police, said Bale, and that organization could potentially file criminal charges if warranted.