on further allegations for the attorney for a mother who said her four-year-old son was beaten with a paddle at the Anderson Takewondo Center
daycare, a state licensed facility that receives public voucher payments for some of its children.
More parents have come forward with allegations of physical punishment — which is prohibited by state law at daycare centers — and the attorney has also said that two Department of Human Services employees
who work at the center, perhaps as volunteer, were aware of or participated in the physical abuse. DHS workers are expected to report physical abuse of children.
A DHS spokesman said the agency was aware of the new allegations and was investigating, along with a KATV report yesterday that the director of the center faced a similar abuse allegation in 2006. At last check, she told the Times the agency had been unable to find a record of a report against him.
The attorney for the mother with the original complaint has said Richard Anderson, director of the center, had said everyone knew his center used corporal punishment. His attorney also claimed the mother signed a form agreeing to its use, but the form actually only agreed that the center could discipline her child (which, by state rules, consists of short periods of "time out.")
The state licenses and inspects day care operations. If a center did make it widely known that it practiced illegal corporal punishment and DHS employees were active participants, it is not a good day for the agency, which is under scrutiny for difficulties in foster parent programs and other child welfare issues uncovered by the case of state Rep. Justin Harris, who adopted and then "rehomed" children into the home of a sex abuser. Harris operates a state financed pre-school, Growing God's Kingdom, which has been criticized for many of its practices in articles by the Arkansas Times.
UPDATE: Channel 4 has some extensive reporting
on allegations by parents, including the explosive suggestion that DHS employees not only knew but were involved in improper use of force.
I'd add: There's a culture in Arkansas supportive of "corporal punishment" — a practice too readily subject to abuse as well as being famously ineffective. That it exists and is tolerated in an agency that is supposed to protect children is maybe the most damning allegation to arise from this sad episode. It becomes easy to believe that the director of the center had said "everyone" knew they used corporal punishment. Because, really, doesn't everyone? It's a scandal.