Agency tells North Little Rock day care to close, says investigation found worker with criminal record, other issues

Lil Angels owner will appeal

Posted: January 26, 2018 at 4:30 a.m.

A day care center operating at a church in North Little Rock must shut down by Feb. 6, the Arkansas Department of Human Services ordered Thursday.

In its notice of adverse action, the agency said its investigation into Lil Angels at Levy Baptist Church revealed the employment of a person with a criminal record, improper medication labeling and an employee's use of marijuana.

Lil Angels serves 32 children, ages 6 weeks to 6 years old, owner and director Tanya Ward said. Ward, a retired North Little Rock police officer, started the day care and preschool five years ago. It employs seven people.

Ward, 49, declined to comment on the details of the investigation but said she plans to appeal the decision to revoke the day care's permit.

"It seems very harsh for a first-time violation," she said.

The parents of a 2-year-old also sued Lil Angels on Tuesday, alleging that day care workers gave their daughter allergy medication to get her to fall asleep and that a worker lied to them about what was going on.

People have posted words of encouragement and praise for Lil Angels on Ward's personal Facebook page and the day care's Facebook page this week, and more than 1,000 other people have shared a woman's post alerting people to DHS' investigation into the allegations of drugging and the hiring of a person who did not pass a background check.

The DHS report released Thursday concludes the agency's licensing investigation of the day care but not its maltreatment investigation of the day care, according to the department's investigation narrative.

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The department received a complaint about Lil Angels on Dec. 19. The complaint said a person who was terminated after disallowed background check results was rehired by Lil Angels under the name of a previous employee who had cleared a background check. The complaint also said an employee had worked at Lil Angels while under the influence of marijuana and that children were given medication to make them drowsy so they would sleep more during the day.

On Dec. 20, DHS child care licensing supervisor Sharra Singleton-Litzsey called the "prohibited individual," who said she did not pass a background check in April, according to the DHS report. She then told Litzsey that Ward rehired her in August after going to her house and asking her to return under the name of a former employee and working hours when officials were unlikely to visit the day care, the report said. She worked from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. later on when she became the lead teacher in a classroom for 2-year-olds, the report said.

Earlier this month, Ward told DHS officials that the "prohibited individual" had asked to volunteer at Lil Angels and Ward allowed her to take out the trash, believing that she would not need to pass a background check to volunteer.

In its notice of adverse action, DHS noted that volunteers who work directly with children or are left alone with children must adhere to the same background check requirements.

Later on Dec. 20, Litzsey and a child care specialist visited Lil Angels unannounced. Workers told the officials that the "prohibited individual" had worked at the day care, and some used her real name and others used the assumed name.

"Evidence confirms that this individual had routine contact with children, was used as a staff member in a caregiver role in the classroom and was left alone with children," DHS said in its notice of adverse action.

The "prohibited individual" also told Litzsey on Dec. 20 that she told Ward an employee used marijuana, according to the department report. She also said another employee gave children cough syrup and Benadryl to make them sleep, according to the report. She also observed one teacher spanking a 5-year-old and broken water pipes that allowed in cockroaches and insects, according to the report. She resigned in December.

On the Dec. 20 visit, Litzsey and the other worker reported finding improperly labeled medication that also did not include parental permission slips for its usage.

DHS drug-tested the employee accused of using marijuana, and her test was positive. She was fired.

Earlier this month, DHS workers reported discovering medication and an inhaler in a teacher's unlocked desk, heavy blankets on infants in cribs and unsupervised children in the hallway.

Metro on 01/26/2018