HAMMOND | The Indiana Department of Education has suspended funding to a Hammond day-care facility, citing "serious deficiencies" in the facility's operation, state records show.
"One of the serious deficiencies we identified is the imminent threat to the health or safety of (program) participants or the public," Julie Sutton, director of School and Community Nutrition for the department, wrote in a March letter.
In addition to the suspension of funding, the Indiana Bureau of Child Care also revoked the license last month for Northwest Family Services after state inspectors documented 117 violations there.
Most of the violations related to problems with the day care's building in Hammond — including lighting issues, lack of hot water, broken equipment and an unsafe playground, Marni Lemons, deputy communications director for the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration, told The Times. The Bureau of Child Care is a division of the FSSA.
Other violations were more serious.
The facility's employees were reminded to keep poisons, chemicals and any item that says it is fatal if swallowed in locked storage away from children, state records show.
A state investigator also overheard a staff member telling a parent during a phone conversation that a child "needs a beating like I do with my grandchildren," according to a letter from the state to Northwest Family Services. When that staff member got off the phone, she told the child, "I'm gonna take you home one weekend and treat you just like my grandchildren. You'll come back a different child," the letter from the FSSA states.
That same child also was told, "I'm gonna cut one of those ponytails off," state records show.
Northwest Family Services also was admonished to not engage in "cruel, harsh, unusual, humiliating or frightening methods of discipline, including threatening the use of physical punishment," state records show.
Indiana officials revoked Northwest Family Services' license without a cease and desist order, meaning the facility can continue to operate. It can have up to 220 children, state records show.
But the facility was dealt another financial blow when the Indiana Department of Education suspended Child and Adult Care Food Program funding because of the Bureau of Child Care's investigation. Those dollars, which fund nutritious meals and snacks, come from the federal government but are distributed by the state.
The Department of Education also proposed to disqualify Northwest Family Services, Executive David Armistead and Board President Arlene Dickover from future participation in the program.
"All of this will be resolved," Armistead said Tuesday. He declined further comment.
Though the Department of Education cited "imminent threat" in its decision to suspend funding, FSSA spokeswoman Marni Lemons said none of the violations indicated any imminent danger to the children.
If a subsequent inspection revealed such a situation, the Bureau of Child Care would issue an immediate order to cease operating the facility and would report it to the Indiana Department of Child Services, Lemons added.