Greenwood church may fight daycare shutdown

GREENWOOD – White River Baptist Church in Greenwood indicates it may fight a state order to close its daycare operation next week.

Little Angels Daycare and Preschool has been served with a letter of registration termination by the Indiana Family & Social Services Administration.

The letter, dated January 31, found that the church-operated daycare violated state code requiring that “the childcare ministry must do the following: Refrain from employing, or allowing to serve as a volunteer, an individual who: is a person against whom an allegation of child abuse or neglect has been substantiated.”

The parents of approximately 130 children have less than a week to find alternative child care. The shutdown would take effect Feb. 13.

The state termination order stems from a 2012 investigation in which a church deacon was accused of inappropriately touching a 5-year-old girl.

Greenwood police detectives could not substantiate the allegation, but state child protective services investigators did.

“We had conversations with the facility letting them know that if they wanted to operate as a registered childcare ministry they were not able to have this individual on the grounds and reached an agreement at that time,” said Melanie Brizzi, child care administrator of the Bureau of Child Care. “When we went back on January 30, he was found to be on the premises.”

Greenwood Assistant Police Chief Matt Fillenwarth told Fox59 News that the man was thought to be a deacon at the church and his office was adjacent to the childcare facility. He also continued to participate in other church activities.

Greenwood Police are checking out other recent complaints.

State investigators visited the church after a father complained last week that his son was left alone on a bus for more than an hour. That complaint was confirmed, but would not have been sufficient to terminate the daycare’s registration according to Brizzi.

“When the safety of children is jeopardized then we have to take immediate action,” she said.

Church daycares operate under a different set of rules than commercial sites in Indiana.

“Registered ministries do not have what we call staff-to-child ratios,” Brizzi explained. “There’s also no requirement for daily nutrition, meals, snacks. There are no teacher education or background training requirements for staff within a registered ministry. They also don’t have to actively supervise or watch and be in the same room with children.”

Brizzi said parents searching for alternative childcare options will find there are 46 licensed facilities in Johnson County. More than half of those are within a three-mile radius of the church.

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