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Facing child abuse charges, day care operator keeps taking in kids

TAMPA — A week after authorities revoked the license of Just For Kids Day Care, its operator continues to accept children, avoiding regulation by asserting she charges no fees.

Now, three agencies are teaming up to take another shot at keeping Dorothy Ann Sampson-Monroe away from children.

The Department of Children and Families, the Hills­borough County Child Care Licensing Program and the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office are exploring whether they can obtain an injunction to stop Sampson-Monroe's child care activity, said DCF regional director Nick Cox.

Sampson-Monroe was arrested last week on four counts of abuse against children in her care.

Shortly after, DCF sent her a letter ordering her to cease direct contact with children in licensed child care facilities, pending the outcome of the criminal investigation.

But, by Monday, Sampson-Monroe was out on bond and back at the day care, accepting children.

When authorities questioned her, she told them she wasn't charging parents for the service and therefore doesn't meet the county's definition of a "child care" facility that would be regulated by county and state authorities.

Up to nine children have attended the center this week, and each day county inspectors have asked parents to sign affidavits verifying that they are getting the child care for free, said Linda Stoller, who manages the county's Child Care Licensing Program.

Cox said DCF attorneys are looking for a remedy.

"This might be the first time this has happened, when someone's thumbed their nose and done whatever they wanted," he said.

Sampson-Monroe has been arrested 16 times, including a 1991 felony drug conviction that resulted in a two-year prison sentence.

Though Florida law bans people with serious criminal convictions from becoming licensed day care providers, DCF granted Sampson-Monroe an exemption in 2005 after she successfully showed them her life had changed.

Shortly after she was granted the exemption, Sampson-Monroe was arrested on an aggravated battery charge involving a child. The mother of an infant in her home care told police that when she picked up her son, he was unresponsive and lethargic.

Prosecutors later dropped the charges against Sampson-Monroe, saying the time frame of the injury made it impossible to say she caused the boy's brain to bruise.

Without a conviction, Sampson-Monroe was free to go back to running a day care.

Just For Kids became licensed in January. And though Sampson-Monroe told police last week that she was the owner, her application to Stoller's office listed someone else.

Upon learning the application was false, Hillsborough County Child Care Licensing Program revoked the center's license and ordered it to cease operation.

Cox said he hopes attorneys with the Sheriff's Office, the county and DCF arrive at a legal remedy within 24 to 48 hours.

He said the issue, ultimately, is the safety of the children. Sampson-Monroe's actions, he said, show "continuous disregard for anybody. She keeps doing what she pleases."

Staff writer Rebecca Catalanello can be reached at rcatalanello@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3383.

Facing child abuse charges, day care operator keeps taking in kids 06/25/09 [Last modified: Friday, June 26, 2009 9:17pm]
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