Investigation Underway At YWCA Daycare

Monday, March 31st 2008, 7:34 pm
By: News On 6

A YWCA childcare center has been closed after three children walked away unattended.  The kids were not injured and found two blocks away less than a half-hour after they disappeared.  The News On 6's Scott Thompson reports the state wants to know how it happened.

It was last Friday at noon near Memorial and 21st Street. Sonic carhop Toni Etheridge was busy tending to customers when she noticed something unusual. Three children, two boys and a girl, were walking on Memorial next to the curb. Etheridge ran to check on the kids.

"They were just having a blast.  They were going to the toy store. I mean, they were okay.  I wasn't.  They were," said Toni Etheridge.

The children had walked away from the YWCA East Childcare Center. It's two blocks north and one block east from where they were found. Etheridge quickly rounded up the three and called authorities.

"Yeah, it freaked me out very bad because I have children. My youngest two are their ages," said Toni Etheridge.

Felicia Collins Correia is the YWCA's CEO. She says the children had told their teachers they wanted a drink of water then went out the front door.

"The children did report that they were going really low trying to get out without being seen," said Felicia Collins Correia, CEO of the YWCA.

On their way outside the children passed the front desk. Correia says they're looking to see if it was staffed or if the attendant was distracted.

"The front desk is really, it's a multi-use facility and the front desk is for the fitness facility," said Felicia Collins Correia.

Correia says she's spending the week meeting with teachers and staff at each of the YWCA's four other childcare centers. She's looking for idea's to prevent a similar situation from happening in the future. As for Etheridge, she's thankful the children are alright and says she doesn't see herself as a hero.

"I didn't decide, I just reacted. I mean, there they were. Somebody had to get them, there was nobody else around," said Toni Etheridge.

DHS has not given a timeline for when the center might re-open.  But, Correia says the YWCA doesn't plan to take care of children there until changes are made to improve security.

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