January 28

DHHS stumbles on Lyman day care owner’s abuse

One arm of the agency says yes, then another says no, a conflict that could put kids at risk and suggests a communications gap.

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

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DHHS officials did not respond specifically Wednesday to questions about their decision that the risk to children was 'not severe enough' to share information about Sunshine Child Care & Preschool. That decision meant that findings of abuse would not be reported to potential employers of Cheryl Dubois, including other day care centers, or to licensing agencies, including the DHHS office that licensed her Sunshine Child Care & Preschool.

Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

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Brett and Hannah Williams of Sanford say up-to-date information would have helped them after their infant son was swaddled so tightly by Cheryl Dubois that his eyes became bloodshot, according to the licensing office’s investigation of her day care center.

The incident apparently occurred at least three years ago. The couple withdrew their son in January 2011, after noticing staff members acting tense and nervous. They say they were not told what happened to their son until this month, when a former employee of the day care center contacted them after news reports about the center appeared.

“We had no idea. We were never told by the state,” said Hannah Williams. “Parents should be told immediately if there’s a DHHS investigation involving their child.”

“The state let us down,” said Brett Williams.

The DHHS did not respond to questions why the Williamses were never told about the incident or that it was part of the department’s investigation of the day care center.

That investigation said Cheryl Dubois had been “abusive, humiliating and intimidating” and created “a toxic and unsafe environment” for children and employees.

It said Dubois had lifted a child by his or her biceps, “slamming” the child on the floor; pulled chairs out from under children, causing bruises and cuts; forced children to put soap in their mouths; and force-fed milk to children who refused to drink.

The report also said Dubois had lied on her license applications by saying she had never had any involvement with the Office of Child and Family Services.

The statement from Albert said the Office of Licensing and Regulatory Services “regularly” turns down applications for licenses if misinformation is provided. But the department did not say why the Sunshine Child Care & Preschool’s license was approved after investigators found that Dubois had lied in her applications.

“We rely on the integrity of those who apply for child care licenses,” Albert’s statement said. “Several variables can complicate the ability to confirm key information,” it added, without saying what those variables are. 

Staff Writer Joe Lawlor contributed to this report.

Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:

emurphy@pressherald.com

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