A Sandy Springs daycare center is being investigated by the state after it allowed a 15-month-old boy to wander off the property July 19.

Sgt. Sam Worsham, a spokesman for the Sandy Springs Police Department, said a resident living near the center, which is located at 4790 Lake Forrest Drive, found the boy at 3:23 p.m. that day and reported the incident to police.

“The (center) directors had not discovered that the child was missing until law enforcement showed up at their door with a photo of the child asking if they knew who he was,” Worsham said.

The center is classified by the state as a family childcare learning home or in-home childcare facility, meaning it’s run out of someone’s home. It’s owned by Ellen Harris and possibly her spouse, and Lake Forrest Drive is a busy two-lane street.

Worsham said both owners were charged with reckless conduct and released with a court date pending. The boy, whose name is not being released, was taken to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta for evaluation, where he was determined by doctors to be unharmed and released to his father, he said.

According to documents posted on Bright from the Start: the Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning’s website, the center is in good standing with the state based on its previous three inspections, which date back to January 2018. In a report regarding its most recent monitoring visit in January, it met all of the 11 requirements except two (playground safety and child supervision).

Reg Griffin, spokesman for that department, said the state’s investigation is separate from the police’s and will only involve any violations of Georgia’s regulations regarding daycare centers. Griffin confirmed that the center has two employees and is allowed to have up to six unrelated children for pay at any time.

"The rule also allows for related children to be present, but there may not be more than six children under the age of 13 years old at any time, and the provider is allowed to care for two additional children for two hours," he said.

Griffin also said the state conducts a minimum of two unannounced inspections per year at each of Georgia’s daycare centers. He added that if a center is placed under investigation by the state for a violation such as this one, the probe usually takes about a month.

“We give ourselves up to 30 days because there are so many interviews in a case like this. You’ll add in law enforcement, the neighbor who found the child, anyone else who may be involved in the case who observed things,” Griffin said. “We hope to wrap it up sooner than that, but we allot 30 days.”

He said the punishment for a center’s violations range from minor to major based on “the circumstances we’re able to determine in the investigation.”

“It can be a citation against the childcare program,” Griffin said. “It can be technical assistance that’s mandated for them to make sure it doesn’t happen again. But if it’s serious enough based on a daycare center not properly monitoring children, it can go up to a license revocation.”

The Neighbor called the center seeking comment but could not leave a message since its voicemail inbox was full. An email sent to Harris seeking comment was not immediately returned.


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