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Authorities shut down illegal daycare in Durham

Posted October 18, 2011
Updated October 19, 2011

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— A Durham man and woman were charged Tuesday with continuing to run a home daycare more than a year after the facility's license was revoked, the state Division of Child Development and Early Education said.

Acting on a complaint, a childcare consultant with the DCDEE went to Tara Alston's home at 114 Oakmount Circle, but Alston would not allow the consultant inside. At that point, Durham police were called in to investigate.

"We never know how (the children) are being cared for," Capt. Ed Sarvis said. "There is a reason why the department requires daycare workers to be licensed."

Authorities determined that Alston and Michael Christopher Thomas, who also lives at the Oakmount Avenue home, were operating a daycare facility called Learning Ladder without a license, police said.

Eleven preschool-age children were found at the house but were not harmed, authorities said. The children's parents were contacted to pick them up and were informed that the daycare would not reopen.

Alston, 41, and Thomas, 38, were charged with three felony counts of operating an illegal childcare facility. They were both free on separate $3,000 bonds Wednesday.

Police: Durham woman knowingly ran illegal daycare Police: Durham woman knowingly ran illegal daycare

Department of Health and Human Services documents obtained by WRAL News show that Alston's license to operate a daycare at the home was revoked in 2010, when officials made an unannounced visit and discovered that the children were staying at a different home about a mile away.

Alston signed one of the documents acknowledging the loss of her license, but neighbors said it was only a matter of time before the daycare was back up and running.

"For a while, there were no kids over there, and later they came back," neighbor Virginia Brown said. "In the winter and spring, the kids would be in the backyard, laughing and playing and running." 

Knowingly operation a childcare facility without a license is a felony, authorities said. State law requires anyone who cares for three or more children for four or more hours a day on a regular basis to be licensed.


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  • bmg379 Oct 20, 2011

    nothing new to those nice folks who just as soon drive w/o a license as well

  • boneymaroney13 Oct 19, 2011

    We still haven't heard Rico's explaination for the race card. I think that hand was played out of turn. Don't let rev. barb catch you doing that.

  • Nancy Oct 19, 2011

    The news coverage lacks the background information on why her daycare lost it's license before, so most of what people post is speculation and anger toward officials actions today.

    Hard to say why she lost her license last year and was operating without one this year. There had to be a reason to lose your license.

  • Rebelyell55 Oct 19, 2011

    By the time this gets to court, there will more information, and some of it will be shocking!

  • storchheim Oct 19, 2011

    I just thought of something else: Zoning law.

    Yes, the govt CAN tell you what you may and may not do on your property. It's to protect your investment and ensure that you don't wake up next to an airport, junkyard, strip club, hog farm, or cell tower one morning. Or a daycare center with too many children and accompanying traffic.

    I wonder if this is why her license was revoked before? Not that she was a bad provider, but maybe it didn't comply with the zoning regs.

    Although lots of red flags shoot up when a daycare provider refuses entry to someone from DSS (or wherever). It's one thing if the police come armed to my home one day, where there's nothing else going on, and demand to search the place. But child services showing up and being refused entry to a day care...that's another story. Maybe the barriers were so that no one being harbored there could escape. What was she hiding?

  • bonniebardwell Oct 19, 2011

    Say what you will, I would take my children to Ms. Tara, licensed or not. My boys loved her and she really helped prepare my son for kindergarden. She organized weekend outings and family get-togethers. If our family had not moved, my children probably would have had to wittness Ms. Tara's arrest. Poor kids, shame on you DPD.

  • storchheim Oct 19, 2011

    wildcat, before making 3 posts in a row screaming about grandparents, try reading all the previous comments.

  • xxxxxxxxxxxxx Oct 19, 2011

    "The problem is, "breaking rules, regulations & laws" doesn't necessarily mean that any real, actual wrong-doing happened."

    But sometimes wrongdoing does happen - that's why the rules, regulations and laws are there in the first place. I haven't held up any liquor stores lately, but I don't think they should repeal the law about holding up liquor stores.

  • storchheim Oct 19, 2011

    "And there needs to be way more money provided to subsidize child care expenses for those on the lower end of the economy. Without safe and affordable childcare, these people will never be contributing to the economy by being productive workers.

    I disagree. There need to be way fewer children born that can't be cared for, even if that means some people never have them.

    Secondly, are you sure all the parents of these children were out working? None were just sitting back collecting welfare?

    Or maybe subsidies for legitimate, licensed daycare requires that the parent be able to prove s/he has a job? Hm.

  • paschmidt99 Oct 19, 2011

    They have a hard time catching and solving real crime, however, they are real good at busting a babysitter.