Two scary incidents involving children led the state of Missouri to shut down a Raymore daycare.
Little Folks Home Daycare was ordered to suspend operations in a letter issued Tuesday by Missouri's health department.
A 3-year-old child wandered from the center on Dec. 11 and wound up at a gas station where an employee called police. The employees didn't realize he was missing for 30 minutes until an off-duty employee recognized him at the station and called owner Tonya Pruitt.
State social workers arrived two days later to investigate the incident. On that same day, a 9-year-old boy who goes to the daycare for before and after-school functions snagged three bottles of cough syrup from a basket in an employee's empty office.
"These incidents demonstrate that you are not able to provide a safe environment for children," according to the nine-page letter from the state to the daycare.
Pruitt told the toddler's mother that he wandered away when he went to get gloves while his classmates and teacher went to the backyard for play time. The boy headed out the front door unseen by staff who also didn't hear the front door buzzer. And the teacher didn't do the required head count.
Pruitt allegedly told the toddler's mother that the teacher would be terminated, but she told social workers that she was a good teacher who normally wasn't careless. Pruitt told social workers that she had suspended the teacher, but didn't know if she would terminate the woman.
In the case of the purloined cough syrup, a nurse at the child's elementary school discovered the cough syrup in his coat pockets the next day. She notified the authorities.
The child told social workers that he prefers to wander around the center rather than playing outside.
"He stated no one was really watching him and there was no one in the office," the child said according to a state report. "He stated that he is not sure why he took the bottles."
The boy's foster mother told him that he would not return to Little Folks because it was unsafe for him.
Pruitt told social workers on Dec. 17 that the cough syrup was kept on her desk for parents.
"She stated that children know not to get into her office and Child B should have never gone into her office," according to a state report. "She stated that she thought Child B was old enough to know better than to steal from her. She stated that Child B has had behavioral issues, but that she feels that he has gotten a lot better and that he could be trusted. She stated she has never really asked Child B's guardian if Child B has any special needs."
Another teacher told social workers that the child knew right from wrong.
"She stated that she does allow school-age children to go unaccompanied into the facility from the playground to use the bathroom or get a drink of water," according to the state report. "She stated that the office is never really locked and that the children know not to go in there."
Social workers said they found that the children's medication and cough syrup was stored in the kitchen within reach of school-aged children.
In a note to parents, Pruitt said she was getting an attorney and would reopen as soon as possible. She noted that the child never consumed the cough syrup, but said it led to the closure. The note did not mention the missing child.
Little Folks Daycare was issued its license on Nov. 19, 2005. The license was most recently renewed this February and was set to expire in 2014.
Pruitt did not return telephone calls seeking comment.
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