Local News

Authorities shut down illegal daycare in Durham

Posted October 18, 2011 5:17 p.m. EDT
Updated October 19, 2011 9:34 a.m. EDT

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man and woman were charged Tuesday with continuing to run a home daycare more than a year after the facility's license was revoked, the state Division of Child Development and Early Education said.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

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Health and Human Services documents obtained by WRAL News show that Alston's license to operate a daycare at the home was revoked in 2010, when officials made an unannounced visit and discovered that the children were staying at a different home about a mile away.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