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Holly Oak Child Care Center Sees License Revoked After Investigation

Holly Oak Child Care Center Sees License Revoked After Investigation

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Holly Oak Child Care Center is closing its doors.

Days after Delaware Online/The News Journal published an investigation into the allegedly “rough treatment” of children at the Wilmington daycare, the same center was told its license had been revoked. Effective Wednesday, the center will cease all operations indefinitely, the board warned in a letter to parents Tuesday night.

This comes after the Office of Child Care Licensing, which oversees daycares and child care facilities in Delaware, substantiated about 14 claims against the center in its investigations.

“Holly Oak Child Care Center has served our community for 24 years,” the board wrote this week. “It is with heavy hearts that we share the news of our driver’s license suspension. We strive to make the right decisions at the right time for everyone involved — we hope you will do what is right for you and your family in the meantime.”

A Delaware Online/The News Journal investigation, based on interviews with parents, administrators and former teachers, as well as an analysis of texts, emails and recordings obtained by the news organization and the state, published July 1.

It found that the state quietly substantiated a series of complaints before the end of June by publishing them in its online database after weeks of questioning by reporters from Delaware Online/The News Journal. On July 2, additional claims were added to the state’s database, along with a series of noncompliance citations. It’s unclear whether more are on the way.

In general, this research has yielded the following results:

  • Teachers at Holly Oak failed to report concerns about abusive treatment by a teacher, including shouting, swearing, pulling arms and pushing, which would mean losing staff and closing classrooms.
  • While the state’s Institutional Abuse Unit said it did not have “sufficient evidence to support allegations of abuse,” the Office of Child Care Licensing launched an investigation. It has since confirmed that Holly Oak employees failed to report suspected child abuse or neglect and that “improper discipline” was used on children, among other corroborated reports.
  • Holly Oak also failed to notify the Office of Child Care Licensing of any injuries that required medical or dental attention. Investigators confirmed that an administrator knew that at least two children had suffered injuries that required stitches, according to the licensing database, while they were present.
  • Researchers also confirmed that all Holly Oak classes failed to maintain proper teacher-to-child ratios 98 times in one month, according to data from March 2024. More data appears to have been requested, according to the online database.
  • Holly Oak has faced several other fines for non-compliance with licensing regulations over the years, but so far there has been no evidence of abuse, despite emails between employees acknowledging previous problems.
  • Other complaints included failure to report a change in management to the state, lack of supervision, failure to comply with state meal regulations, failure to follow diapering procedures, poor facility sanitation and more.

The senior employee accused of abusing children had been on administrative leave since May 17. Bethany Hunt, the interim director at the time, remained on leave since about May 21 for failing to report her concerns, even though the center told parents she remained in the office. Nearly all of the board members at the time resigned when the first reports reached the state.

Now that center is closing completely.

What exactly happened at Holly Oak?

READ OUR RESEARCH: This Delaware Daycare Failed to Report Abuse. What Happened Next?

Next Steps for Parents in Delaware

When the state investigation into alleged child abuse at Holly Oak began, many parents were already scrambling to find alternative care. Now, the same is true for all families connected to the center on Philadelphia Pike.

Education Department officials advise families researching child care centers to use the state Office of Child Care Licensing’s online database to review the facility’s licensing inspection records, including inspection reports and substantiated complaints.

Reports for the past three years are available for all licensed facilities in Delaware, which can help in finding a reputable center. The department said that “unannounced full compliance monitoring” visits are conducted annually at all facilities, along with investigating all complaints received about noncompliance.

My Child DE has resources for families on child care, along with connections to AccessCare, which offers free child care referrals and connects parents with child care specialists. Families can also contact a child care specialist search at 800-734-2388 who can provide a list of providers based on child care needs.

Once families have selected their favorite locations, they can tour the locations and ask questions about costs, staff, and general operations to help narrow down their choices.

After all, babies and toddlers are often unable to express what is happening around them.

SEARCH FOR APPROVED CHILD CARE FACILITIES IN DELAWARE

What else should parents know? Child safety in Delaware daycare centers is once again in the spotlight

Have a tip? Contact Amanda Fries at [email protected] and Kelly Powers at [email protected].