Baton Rouge Daycare was a Front for a "Violent Drug Ring"

By Michael Klazema on 7/15/2015
News stories about daycares caught operating without the proper credentials, without background checks for their employees, or without necessary safety precautions in place are sadly too common. However, a recent tale of a Baton Rouge, Louisiana daycare takes that stock story one step further, and shows just how careful parents have to be in deciding where and with whom to leave their children.

The daycare in question, the Emmanuel Child Development and Learning Center, had been in business for roughly two years before abruptly shuttering its doors at the beginning of July. Shortly after the daycare was closed, a U.S. Attorney announced that 38 people had been arrested in connection with the daycare, which was allegedly the front for a "violent drug ring."

According to a report from The Advocate, a Baton Rouge-based newspaper, the drug ring traded primarily in cocaine, and had a wide-ranging operation that went way beyond the walls of the daycare center. Per a Louisiana Department of Education spokesperson, though, the Emmanuel Child Development and Learning Center was the hub of the drug ring. Specifically, the owner and operator of the daycare is "accused of allowing her husband to manufacture, store, package, and distribute drugs in and from the child care center."

Following a tip from the Drug Enforcement Agency about the goings-on at Emmanuel,childcare licensing representatives of the Department of Education paid a visit to the daycare. Problems were immediately evident, from children who were not being properly supervised to a lack of paperwork and documentation. Specifically, the daycare was missing job applications and evidence of background checks for employees, as well as documentation proving that employees had gone through legally mandated first aid and CPR training.

All of this begs the question of how Emmanuel Child Development and Learning Center ever passed the state inspections necessary to stay open. As it turns out, the daycare only passed one of six state inspections since first applying for a childcare license in early 2013. In other words, in the past two-plus years, the daycare has been repeatedly cited for lack of licensing documentation, missing employee background checks, missing child abuse clearances for workers, and more. And yet despite these glaring citations, the childcare center wasn't shut down until the DEA got involved.

It's not clear exactly why five failed state inspections didn't result in the closure of the Emmanuel Child Development and Learning Center, nor is it clear precisely how far-reaching the alleged drug ring was, or whether any children at the daycare were ever directly exposed to drugs or other harmful substances. What is clear is that suspicions about the daycare were there from the beginning. A Federal indictment from fall 2013 states that drug dealers were already suspected of moving drugs and money in and out of the daycare. The indictment didn't lead to any arrests or other action regarding the daycare, and the business was allowed to continue operating.

What could have prevented this problem? Better background checks, more inspections, tighter licensing requirements, and more accountability at the state level seem like the most obvious courses of action here. For the most part, though, this incident should serve as a reminder to parents that not all daycares that are "open for business" are safe places to leave children. Parents could and should have known about Emmanuel's failed inspections, or about the Federal investigations surrounding the daycare, and most of that information would have been public record. The lesson? Parents shouldn't rely on the state to always catch the bad eggs in the childcare sector, and should instead do their own in-depth research in order to ensure a find environment for their kids.

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