TAMPA — A child abuse arrest didn't stop her. Lack of licensing didn't stop her. Numerous cease-and-desist orders from the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office and the Florida Department of Children and Families didn't stop her.
Now, child welfare authorities are asking a judge to put an end to one woman's determination to run a child care center, saying she is illegally operating her facility without a license.
Dorothy Ann Sampson-Monroe, a convicted felon who runs Just For Kids day care, has ignored authorities since her June 17 arrest on four child abuse charges, according to the Sheriff's Office motion for temporary injunction filed Friday in Hillsborough County Circuit Court.
"The children currently being cared for at Just for Kids Center are in imminent threat of abuse and neglect based on the history of noncompliance and recent activity requiring law enforcement response from the Tampa Police Department," the motion states.
Just for Kids lost its license June 19, two days after Sampson-Monroe's most recent arrest on four counts of child abuse involving children in her care. But she has continued to accept children into the 2304 E Busch Blvd. day care all week, telling authorities she's providing the service to parents free of charge, thereby failing to meet the legal definition of a "child care."
DCF regional director Nick Cox said Friday that county licensing inspectors have found at least one parent who was paying. And according to the court filing authored by Sheriff's Office attorney Jason Gordillo, Tampa police have been called out to the center six times in the past two months:
• April 8: on a complaint of physical abuse to a 1-year-old.
• April 9: on a complaint about lack of supervision for the children.
• April 24: responding to a call about an aggravated battery on a pregnant woman in which an employee was accused of attacking the mother of a child.
• June 8: when a recently fired employee refused to leave.
• June 17: to investigate a complaint that Sampson-Monroe used inappropriate discipline against four children between the ages of 3 and 5, hitting them on the buttocks, legs and face. This was the charge for which she was eventually arrested.
• June 19: on a complaint of physical abuse to a child filed. On Friday evening, neither DCF nor Tampa police could confirm the details of this most recent investigation.
Sampson-Monroe, who turns 48 today, has declined to answer questions.
Public records show she has been arrested 16 times, including on drug possession charges in 1991 that resulted in a two-year prison sentence.
More than a decade later, she applied for a license to run a day care. At first, she was automatically denied under Florida laws that disqualify people with serious felony convictions. But in 2005, DCF granted Sampson-Monroe an exemption after she convinced them she had turned her life around.
As spelled out in Friday's court filing, however, Sampson-Monroe's dealings as a child care provider have been anything but smooth since then.
A few months after she got the go-ahead, an infant in her care suffered bruising to his brain. Sampson-Monroe was arrested in connection with the injury after months of investigation. She voluntarily relinquished her license at the time.
But when the prosecutors looked at the case, they dropped the charges, saying the time line of the injuries made it hard to prove Sampson-Monroe was at fault.
In March 2008, when Sampson-Monroe was running the day care in another location, investigators determined a teacher in her center had been slapping one child on the back of the head for discipline. The teacher was eventually fired.
And, according to records submitted to the court, Sampson-Monroe was investigated in October for operating Just For Kids without a license.
When Just For Kids did obtain its license in January, records show it was less than a month before Sampson-Monroe started having serious differences with licensing inspectors.
Just For Kids has been cited by county licensing several times since then. Operating without electricity. Failing to complete required background checks on employees. Not supervising children as they sleep. Operating a food service facility without a county permit.
"The continued access Dorothy Sampson-Monroe has with the children at Just for Kids Center threatens the immediate safety of (children) as evidenced by the extensive history of crime, code violations, statutory violations and substantiated child protective investigations that Dorothy Sampson-Monroe has engaged in," Gordillo wrote.
If a judge agrees, Sampson-Monroe could be legally ordered to cease all child care activity — for at least as long as the investigation continues into her current allegations.
"If this woman disregards a judge," Cox said, "She's got a lot more problems than we know."
Rebecca Catalanello can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3383.