Tulsa Child Care Centers Face Off Over Former Employee Charged With Abuse

Monday, November 15th 2010, 9:48 pm
By: News On 6

Ashli Sims, News On 6

TULSA, Oklahoma-- News On 6 uncovered new details on how a woman previously accused of abuse could continue to work in child care.

Meredith Howard was fired from the John Knox Child Development Center last week, after she was arrested for child abuse. But it wasn't the first time she was accused of hurting a child.

11/12/2010 Related Story: Tulsa Child Abuse Suspect's Former Employer: 'We Were Never Contacted'

Its the question many parents are asking. How did Meredith Howard get a second job in child care, after she was accused of breaking a baby's leg?

Two child care centers, both run by Presbyterian churches, faced off with two contradictory statements regarding their former employee Meredith Howard. Howard was charged with two counts of child abuse last week.

She was accused of penetrating a 19-month old girl, while she worked at John Knox Child Development Center. The other incident happened in 2008, when Howard worked at a Mommy's Day Out program at Kirk of the Hills Church.

Back then, she was accused of breaking an eight-month-old baby's thigh bone, when she sat him down too forcefully. The District Attorney declined to file charges in the case at the time.

Howard was placed on administrative leave, but was later allowed to return to work for Kirk of the Hills. Police say Howard told them she was transferred from working with babies to working with toddlers.

Kirk of the Hills said in a statement they never received any official reports from the authorities. But the state only licenses facilities that take care of children for more than 15 hours a week. Kirk of the Hills' Mommy's Day Out program does not qualify.

When Howard left the Kirk to go work for John Knox, she had to fill out an application that asks if she was ever convicted of child abuse, not accused.

John Knox issued a statement last week that says Howard's criminal history review, required by law, showed no prohibited or restricted offenses. DHS policy also requires that child care facilities check worker's references. John Knox's director says she did just that.

But Kirk of the Hills said in a statement that "at no time... has the church staff been contacted about Ms. Howard for any references whatsoever."

DHS is trying to get to the bottom of it and the agency is looking into both Kirk of the Hills and John Knox to make sure they followed the rules. They also add that back in 2008, it wasn't possible to check if a child care worker had been investigated for child abuse that didn't lead to a criminal charge.

With the new child care restricted registry, you can find out if a worker was accused of substantiated abuse, even if they were never arrested or charged.