January 17

Lyman day-care center closes after being accused of mistreating kids

The DHHS had given the facility a conditional license after an investigation found a co-owner was physically and verbally ‘abusive.’

By Edward D. Murphy emurphy@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

A day-care center in Lyman where state investigators found that a co-owner was “abusive, humiliating and intimidating” to employees and the children in her care has closed its doors.

click image to enlarge

Daniel Dubois, co-owner of Sunshine Child Care & Preschool in Lyman, above, denies the allegations in a DHHS report and blames them on disgruntled former employees.

Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

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Danielle Pouliot says the owners of a Lyman day-care center failed to report her son’s injuries, and that he was force-fed milk.

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

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Letter from child care licensing compliance officer
Conditional license for Sunshine Child Care and Preschool

SOME FINDINGS OF DHHS INVESTIGATION

Among the findings of an investigation of the Sunshine Child Care & Preschool in Lyman by the Department of Health and Human Services last summer:

 

Cheryl Dubois “has been abusive, humiliating and intimidating” to children and staff members.

Two former employees qualified for unemployment because of “the stress and anxiety” created by their treatment by owners Cheryl and Daniel Dubois.

Cheryl Dubois yelled and swore at children and staff members.

Dubois wasn’t truthful in her licensing applications.

Dubois picked up a child by the biceps and “slammed the child down onto the floor into a sitting position.”

At least two adults saw Dubois pull a chair from under a child, causing the child to fall and hit his or her chin.

Dubois grabbed the cheeks of a child and threatened to bite the child.

Dubois made at least one child put soap in his or her mouth.

Dubois force-fed milk to children.

An employee yelled at a child, picked him or her up by the arm and put the child in another part of the room.

A staff member forcibly restrained a child during circle time.

Cheryl Dubois swaddled an infant so tightly that the child cried and his or her eyes became bloodshot.

Dubois shared personal information about children and parents with other parents and staff members, violating confidentiality regulations.

• Incident reports were “consistently not filled out” when children were injured.

• Except in one instance, parents were not told about injuries and learned of them only when they saw marks on their children.

The co-owner, Cheryl Dubois, “grabbed a child by the biceps and slammed the child down onto the floor,” made a child put soap in his or her mouth, pulled a high chair out from under a child, and threatened to bite a child, according to a report on the Sunshine Child Care & Preschool by the state Department of Health and Human Services.

Despite the findings of its investigation last summer, the state issued the day-care center a conditional license, giving it a year to show that it could comply with state rules, correct the behavior and fix record-keeping violations.

The change in the license and the findings of the investigation were supposed to be posted publicly, but Daniel Dubois, the other co-owner, said he did not post them because the business appealed the state’s decision.

DHHS spokesman John Martins said the department is barred from addressing specific cases so he couldn’t discuss why the day-care center’s license was granted conditionally, rather than revoked.

In 2013, he said, the state oversaw about 850 day-care centers and preschools – not including home-based day cares – and issued 22 conditional licenses and two revocations. Those numbers do not include providers who decided to close voluntarily after getting conditional licenses, he said.

Daniel Dubois denied the allegations in the report and blamed them on disgruntled former employees. He said the business closed a week ago because parents’ reaction to the findings made it impossible for the operation to continue.

He said parents who withdrew their children behaved “like the people with their torches going to get Frankenstein. They’re making this place sound like the house of horrors, but it’s not true.”

QUESTIONS RAISED OVER TREATMENT

Danielle Pouliot of Kennebunk said she pulled her son, Kayden, out of the day-care center in July after he got bruises, once under his chin and a second time on his face. She said she heard concerns from other parents and questioned the owners’ explanation about how her son was bruised.

Pouliot said she was told that he slipped out of a chair “while fooling around,” which caused the bruise under his chin. He got the bruise on his face, she was told, when he bumped his head on a lunch tray.

She said the Duboises failed to tell her about the bruises, even though state regulations say injuries must be documented in daily reports and shown to parents.

Pouliot said she also learned that her son was force-fed milk when he refused to drink it, something the DHHS report said happened to more than one child.

Sara Bachelder of Biddeford said she took her two children out of the Sunshine Child Care & Preschool in early 2012, after a former employee told her how her daughter, who was about 4 at the time, was being treated. Bachelder would not provide details, but said her daughter was called names and humiliated by Cheryl Dubois.

Bachelder said she volunteered at the day-care center weekly and never saw any signs of problems, but that “a red flag was the staff turnover.”

Cheryl Dubois told her that turnover was a common problem in the industry, Bachelder said.

FINDINGS OF REPORT APPEALED

The DHHS report said “at least two former employees have obtained unemployment insurance after leaving ... Sunshine Child Care Center due to the stress and anxiety they experienced as a result of the treatment by Dan and Cheryl Dubois.”

The report said the couple did not effectively train or manage their workers, and that Cheryl Dubois yelled and swore at employees and children.

(Continued on page 2)

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