WRAL Investigates

WRAL News investigation leads to closure of day care center

Posted July 21, 2011
Updated July 25, 2011

WRAL Investigates

Correction: An earlier version of this story mentioned that food was prepared on a diaper mat. The story should have noted that it was found during an inspection of A Bundle of Joy Learning Center on Holloway Street in Durham, not an in-home day care with a similar name.

The state of North Carolina pays in-home child care centers nearly $36 million a year in subsidies, and many centers get four- or five-star ratings despite serious safety concerns.

At BT's Home Day Care in Wendell, for example, owner Barbara Johnson's husband, Michael Johnson Sr., isn’t supposed to be in the house until 7:30 p.m. because of his lengthy criminal record, which includes a conviction for assaulting a former wife seven years ago.

Yet, two days in a row, WRAL News cameras caught him pulling up to the house at 4:30 p.m. and going inside.

In her last state inspection, Barbara Johnson was warned to keep her husband away from the day care center after she told the inspector that he would stop by briefly between jobs. When WRAL News asked her why her husband was at the house while children were present, she denied it was him.

“No, that’s his son,” she said.

WRAL News later confirmed it was Michael Johnson Sr. by comparing the man in the video to his mug shot. Barbara Johnson later admitted that it was her husband.

BT's Home Day Care was a five-star operation, the highest rating possible. As owner, Barbara Johnson received close to $70,000 a year to take care of children who get state subsidized childcare. She initially told WRAL News that she'd never jeopardize that by breaking the rules.

“(My husband) respects my business,” she said, adding that he doesn’t come home until he’s supposed to.

Barbara Johnson now says her husband stopped by the house briefly to help move some things.

BT’s is an example of how the state relies on an honor system to some degree for in-home care. State inspectors show up only once a year in most cases, and the owners know the time frame when one will happen.

WRAL News examined inspection reports from in-home child care centers from around the Triangle and found dozens of safety issues, even at facilities with high star ratings.

At Kiss Kindercare in Chapel Hill, toddlers rode tricycles on a driveway close to a busy road. They also ate while sitting in their strollers because they didn't have seats, according to the report. Owner Kissue Mims told WRAL News that those issues have been corrected.

Kiss Kindercare gets $29,000 a year from the state. It was a two-star facility when the inspection was done last year, but it's now listed as a four-star center.

Bundles of Joy Christian Day Care, at 3500 Penn Drive in Durham, was licensed for five children, but 10 were there during a state inspection. Shonda Parrish, owner of Bundles of Joy, said some of the children present at the time of inspection were her own, and that she planned to follow up with the state. 

Bundles of Joy is a three-star facility and receives nearly $61,000 from the state.

Anna Carter, deputy director for the state Division of Child Development, said parents need to bear some of the responsibility.

“You know, parents have a big responsibility. They are there every day, and they are seeing what’s happening,” Carter said.

Homes have to meet a certain safety standard to get a license, but the star rating is based on the education level of the provider and the education program at the center. For the way things run day-to-day between annual inspections, parents are often the eyes, ears and the accountability, especially at home centers where only one adult may be present, Carter said.

“They are aware if we find them in violation, they are putting their license at risk,” she said.

After WRAL News told the state about Michael Johnson Sr. visiting BT's when children were present, Barbara Johnson's license was revoked. She can appeal, but the shutdown was effective immediately.

Both in-home and large scale child care centers are inspected annually, and the inspection reports are posted online.

North Carolina day care statistics:

  • $35,936,717.97 – amount of child care subsidies provided to in-home child care facilities in 2010
  • $389,040,386.82 – amount of subsidy dollars paid to day care centers in 2010
  • 17,554 – total number of children who received a subsidy in an in-home child care facility in 2010
  • 128,990 – total number of children who received a subsidy in a day care center in 2010

This story is closed for comments.

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  • Ouiser Jul 27, 2011

    'parents were NOT allowed down where the childs room was, you had to wait in the lobby. This sent off warning signals to me, what were they hiding?'

    i would think that most folks wouldn't want every person walking in off the street to have access to all the kids in the center.

  • Ouiser Jul 27, 2011

    if you can't afford $10/month contraception or a box of condoms, what makes you think you can afford childcare?

  • cocoawoodin Jul 22, 2011

    Because her husband (who happen to have prior convictions)came home early does deplict how well she cared for the children. I can send a friend or family member with a really bad police report or mental health record to pick up my child from daycare, exposing him to everyone there. This man had convictions that were known about he probaly was there for years prior and never had an issue and the children werent in danger. So yes I mean "quality"

  • tjttaylor Jul 22, 2011

    Inlight of the resent investigation of BT's Home Child Care, it is a tragedy that this women was drug throught the mud like this. She was only providing a service that she went to school for and built a business when there was a need for loving, careing and honest care for children who may not get the same care in a center. Homes are the alternitive to centers b/c of the low numbers and more home like feel. We as parents look for that feeling that is not there in a cold, hospital like center. As far as subsidy goes, it's for those parents who cannot afford full payment of childcare and there are those centers and homes who don't take subsidy, so they are a godsent for working parents and students. Don't judge what you don't know. Law makers are only puppets who say what others want them to. If we had someone with guts who would say "no" to cutting funds for Smart Start, More @ 4, and Inhancement programes we'd be better off.

  • Rebelyell55 Jul 22, 2011

    "She didn't steal the state $$$ she was rightfully paid for a quality service that she provided." cocoawoodin
    July 22, 2011 1:13 p.m.
    Not, no way would this be considered Quality service. This was someone who is not going by the rules and as such putting the childern in danger. That's why we have inspector. This is only the tip of the iceburg so to speak. Wonder what other rules she breaking since she could lie so easily.

  • superman Jul 22, 2011

    Those of you with children get welfare from the state in the form of a tax exemption for each dependent on your state income tax. You ever think that those of us without children are paying not only to help you support them at home but to educate them as well. There should be no tax exemption for dependents--in fact the state should have you pay %1,500 for each child. How about paying your fair share of income taxes before you throw rocks at others. People do not have a right for the rest of us to educate your mistakes.

  • ProudBlackSingleMother Jul 22, 2011

    I should not be paying for other people's mistakes.

  • gingerlynn Jul 22, 2011

    This is exactly why I applaud the Legislature for cutting more at 4 by 20%. Maybe we can keep it for those that truly need it. Everyone should pay something on a sliding scale. Even if it is $10 a week. As soon as you make some parents pay something, they won't even bother to enroll. Get your tubes tied if you don't want to pay for your kids.

  • jpinsky Jul 22, 2011

    @ProudBlackSingleMother- Sometimes we can afford to have children and take good care of them,THEN we get sick and run up big healthcare bills, can only work part time , or lose a job, or have a child with problems and spend a lot on that or are caring for a parent or other family member.

  • ur1friend Jul 22, 2011

    Not all people who receive child care subsidies have to be working. There is the student, and childcare to get children in a better environment.