LITTLE ROCK — State regulators are moving to shut down what they say is an unlicensed Little Rock day care provider who tried to hide children from law enforcement officials and inspectors during a recent home visit. They described the house as a health and safety risk.
Lawyers for the Arkansas Department of Human Services say Patrice Lynn Dean, 60, has ignored the agency’s cease-and-desist orders for the day care she operates out of her home at 9517 John Hancock Road in the American Manor subdivision.
Tax records show that the house, a 1,200-square-foot brick-and-frame residence built in 1968 south of Baseline Road, houses Dean Daycare, an unincorporated business.
A report from inspectors’ first visit to the residence shows they found 16 children and describes the home as being “in complete disarray” with bedrooms “full of trash.” It states that one room was so cluttered that the door could only be opened enough for the inspector to get inside.
“The house, overall, posed a risk to health and safety for the children in care,” the report states.
Human Services agency inspectors turned to Pulaski County Circuit Judge Herb Wright on Tuesday to seek an injunction that would close the operation until Dean complies with their demands that she stop taking in so many children. The department also wants the judge to make Dean pay for the expenses incurred for the litigation.
Reached by phone Wednesday, Dean said she was surprised to find out the government is taking her to court. She expressed concern about the expense of having to hire a lawyer to defend herself, and bristled over the accusation that her home could be dangerous to children.
Told by inspectors that she could not have so many children in the house, Dean said she immediately began cutting back, saying the children she has been caring for are mainly relatives.
Children have always been safe and well-cared for in her house, Dean said. The rooms that inspectors have complained about — her bedroom and another room used for storage — are strictly off-limits to children, she said. Dean said she was previously licensed with the state and never received a complaint during her career.
“This is my personal space, and nobody goes back in my personal space,” she said. “I’ve never had a complaint before in all my time.”
Records show that Dean has lived at the residence since at least 1984, and she’s been in the day care business since 1987, about 33 years. Dean had been licensed for 10 children at the house for about 17 years, from 2002-19, but she said she formally gave up her license around the end of 2017 or the first of 2018.
According to the department’s petition to the judge, Dean has been violating day care licensing laws that require people who operate out of their homes to get licenses if they have six or more children from different families in their care. Department inspectors caught her violating the licensing law four times in a four-day period last week, the petition by department attorney Skye Martin states.
Their investigation into her operation began after getting a complaint July 21 that Dean had at least 15 children on the property, court filings state. Dean would not let inspectors into the house until police were called, and 16 children, ages 1-10, were found, three of them her grandchildren.
Inspectors say that after seeing the conditions at her home, they told Dean she had to immediately reduce her operations to five children, and she signed a form acknowledging the five-child limit.
But the next day when inspectors returned, Dean again would not let them inside and told them she had only nine children in her care.
According to a department report of the visit, Dean accused the state inspectors of harassment, saying as a private citizen she “can do whatever in her home” and that “since she is not licensed anymore, she is not under [department] rules.”
Inspectors returned July 23 for a third visit to deliver their cease-and-desist demand, accompanied by police. Dean