Daycare Closing After Toddlers Wandered Off, Found on Busy Highway

May 22, 2019 Updated: May 22, 2019

A North Carolina daycare is closing after several children escaped from their teachers’ supervision last year, and some were even found on a busy highway, according to officials.

The Pinedale Christian Day Care is expected to close on June 11, which is six months after six toddlers aged 2 and 3 wandered away from two teachers last December. The daycare center is operated inside the Pinedale Christian Church.

At the time, the toddlers were on the playground at the facility with 14 other children. The six toddlers managed to slip from the teachers, go down the hall, and out the front doors of the church, reported the Winston-Salem Journal.

Five of the children were found on the Peters Creek Parkway, while the sixth toddler was found at the front doors.

Sarah Lewis Peel, a spokeswoman for the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, told the journal that the decision to close the facility was voluntary.

“The decision to close was made voluntarily by the facility, and they have been working cooperatively with (the division) during this process,” Peel said.

Rev. Matthew Sink, the church’s senior minister, told the journal that the decision to close the daycare was made several weeks ago.

“No one at our church is happy about it,” said Sink. “We are really grieved about it.”

At the time of the incident, Sink told WGHP that people involved were in “disbelief [and] shock” and “then at some point it was complete devastation.”

“We’re thankful we’re not talking about a tragedy today because the what-ifs on this are heavy,” he added.

Two days after the incident, state officials conducted an unannounced inspection to the daycare center. The center was found to have violated three rules for not adequately supervising the children at all times.

“Staff members were not positioned on the playground to maximize their ability to see or hear the children, were not moving about the outdoor environment, were not aware of the children’s activities, and did not provide age-appropriate supervision when several children exited the playground,” the Journal reported, citing a department document.

The inspectors also found that staff did not provide “a safe environment” at the time when the six children escaped from the facility.

Sink said the parents and teachers have been informed about the expected closure and church officials have provided parents and teachers with information to help them look for other daycare centers or job openings, reported the Journal.

The incident occurred on Dec. 4 of last year. After the children fled the facility, a couple of drivers on the highway were able to spot them and stopped their vehicles to investigate.

Among those who stopped was Angie Mullins Herman, who spotted one of the boys who escaped, reported the Journal. After she and her fiance caught the boy, they noticed another driver had four of the runaway children with him.

“They were not full verbal,” she told the Journal at the time. “One was carrying what looked like a basketball, but it was a Christmas tree ornament.”

A police officer, Lt. Brian Dobey, was responding to another incident nearby and stopped to help Herman and the other man.

Herman, the other man, and the police officer managed to get the children back to the daycare and found the sixth child at the door. When they arrived at the daycare section of the church, the female staff appeared to be unaware the children were missing.

“I was dismayed. How do you not know six kids were missing? One had a coat, the other five did not,” Herman told the Journal. “And their cheeks were rosy red, their hands were freezing cold. They got all the way up the hill. How could this happen? We could be going to five funerals. It’s a parent’s worst nightmare.”

Sink did not describe how the employees involved were disciplined but told the Journal that “the teachers are no longer in a classroom, nor will they ever be.”

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