WKYT Investigates: Daycare discrimination

A daycare owner in Lexington is fighting the state’s decision to shut her down.
WKYT Investigates: Daycare discrimination
Published: Sep. 22, 2022 at 4:16 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - LuvShenda Howard opened The Amazing Journey Childcare Center back in January. Six months later, her center closed.

“I feel like I’m having anxiety. Just to know that I worked so hard for something that was taken away from me. I feel like I can’t breathe sometimes. Just coming back in, trying to add more stuff to it because I believe that I will be able to open back up. I have moments where I break down and I cry,” explains Howard.

Two months after opening, the daycare owner welcomed a new family into the center. Shortly after, on a Friday, she noticed one of the children had dry patches on her head and a bruise. She says she called her Childcare Aware Coach, and asked her if she should file a report.

“My Childare Aware Coach said, ‘oh you know, kids play. They fall down. They get hurt at the park.’ She kind of shifted how I felt, how I perceived it to be. So I said, ‘this is innocent.’ Well that Monday, I call her again. I’m like, ‘this is urgent. Please call me.’ She calls back. I said, ‘she has a bruise on her bottom. I don’t know, it has a scratch in the middle, but it’s purple on the side.’ She says, ‘well it’s your call. What do you feel?’ I said, ‘I feel like I should make the report.’ She says again, ‘you’re black-owned, you’re young, if you start throwing around CPS you’re not gonna have kids. Parents are not gonna want to put their kids in your facility and the state’s gonna come in, throw the book at you, and close you,” says Howard.

Childcare Aware is an organization managed by the Human Development Institute at UK. We asked organization leaders about Howard’s claims. A spokesperson for the university sent a statement, saying in part, “the Child Care Aware representative advised LuvShenda Howard that she was required to report any possibility of suspected child abuse and that this conversation was confirmed by the Child Care Aware representative’s supervisor,” and that they “have repeatedly and consistently conveyed the information that refutes Howard’s claims.”

Howard did reach out to Child Protective Services that Monday evening. Their investigation - weeks later - is where the state’s story and Howard’s differ.

In the letter revoking Howard’s child care center license, state inspectors with the Division of Regulated Child Care say Howard did not report bruising when she called in her concerns, and that “based on the description that the staff person in charge gave to intake, the concern did not meet the criteria for Child Protective Services.” The letter also states Howard did not report information staff gave the state upon later investigation - details like what her staff observed the week following - that the child appeared lethargic and zombie-like. Investigators write that Howard did not report what her staff reported to the state, that the mother smelled like marijuana at morning drop off on more than one occasion, and that a sibling cried and wet his pants when the mother’s boyfriend cursed over the phone.

Howard says she did report the bruising to CPS. Her license was revoked in April. Howard and her attorney filed a request for appeal. She believes there are gray areas when it comes to reporting what could be signs of abuse, and she wants laws to be more black and white.