The criminal charges filed by the city of Sandy Springs against a home-based daycare center after it allowed a 15-month-old boy to wander off the property in July have been dismissed, but the state’s investigation into the business is still underway.
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 July 19 at 3:23 p.m. that day near the busy two-lane street and reported the incident to police.
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.
The center’s owners, a couple named Ellen Harris and Roger Honeycutt, each were charged with reckless conduct for the incident, but the charges were dismissed by a Sandy Springs Municipal Court judge Sept. 11.
Andrea Burroughs, a Buckhead resident whose daughter Kit was cared for at the center, beginning 2001 at 18 months old through middle school after-school care, said she was one of many parents who wrote letters to the judge praising the center and its owners.
Burroughs said Harris and Honeycutt were legally advised not to discuss the case, regardless of the outcome, therefore declining the Neighbor’s request for an interview.
While the city’s charges have been dismissed, the state could file some of its own.
However, 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 in July 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.
In an emailed response to the Neighbor’s Sept. 11 questions about the state’s investigation, Griffin said it “should be wrapping up soon.”
Though the Sandy Springs Municipal Court dismissed charges, Bright from the Start’s case to potentially revoke the daycare’s license pending the city court’s decision requires time to process the dismissal. However, July 19, the couple had surrendered their license in order to close the center due to an illness requiring extensive treatment and to provide ample time for its clients to locate other childcare services.