Hillsborough County shuts down Tampa day care center

Dorothy Ann Sampson-Monroe, 47, faces four counts of child abuse. She is out on $8,000 bail.

Dorothy Ann Sampson-Monroe, 47, faces four counts of child abuse. She is out on $8,000 bail.

TAMPA — On the playground, nails protruded from boards.

Where infants sleep, a thermostat read 91 degrees.

At least three caregivers had not completed criminal background checks.

Those were the conditions an inspector found May 12 when she visited Just for Kids Day Care, records show. The center had no electricity.

Send the kids home for the day, the inspector ordered.

On Friday, after six months of wrangling with Dorothy Ann Sampson-Monroe, the operator of Just for Kids, county officials ordered the day care closed for good.

Despite a pile of licensing violations and this week's arrest of Sampson-Monroe on four counts of child abuse at Just for Kids, the official reason for shuttering the 2304 E Busch Blvd. facility had nothing to do with safety.

It had to do with ownership.

Linda Stoller, manager of the Hillsborough County Child Care Licensing Program, hand-delivered a letter to the center Friday, stating that its license was no longer valid.

The application submitted on behalf of Just for Kids in November listed Carol Maultsby as owner. On Thursday, Maultsby informed Stoller that she isn't — and never was — the owner.

"Therefore, the license issued as a result of this application is no longer valid," Stoller wrote in her letter Friday, "and this facility must cease operation."

State officials went a step further.

The Florida Department of Children and Families sent Sampson-Monroe a certified letter Friday telling her that she is banned from any child care work while law enforcement investigates complaints of child abuse.

The move came as many wondered how someone with Sampson-Monroe's background could end up once again working in a child care facility.

Sampson-Monroe, 47, who told police this week that she owned Just for Kids, has been arrested 16 times in Florida. That includes a 1991 conviction on felony drug charges that resulted in a two-year prison sentence.

Florida law disqualifies people from becoming licensed child care providers if they've been convicted of serious crimes.

But in 2005, Sampson-Monroe got an exemption from Florida's Department of Children and Families after asserting she had turned her life around.

A few months later, a mother brought her baby son to a hospital, saying she found him lethargic and unresponsive after Sampson-Monroe took care of him.

Sampson-Monroe was later arrested on aggravated battery charges, accused of shaking the boy until his brain became bruised.

But prosecutors dropped the charges on that 2005 case.

Assistant State Attorney Pam Bondi said Friday that based on the time frame of when the injury occurred, prosecutors could not definitively say that Sampson-Monroe was at fault.

Without a conviction, Sampson-Monroe was free to work in a child care facility again.

On Friday, however, DCF SunCoast regional director Nick Cox said his office had found legal basis to restrict her contact with children for at least 90 days.

After 90 days ends, the DCF would need a judge's approval to extend the ban, he said.

"Your continued contact with children in care constitutes a threatened harm to the physical health, mental health or welfare of children," DCF licensing manager Kris Emden wrote in her letter to Sampson-Monroe. "Your access to children in any licensed day care, family day care home or other licensed child-caring facility is hereby restricted pending the outcome of the investigation."

Investigators from Tampa police, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office child protective investigations division and the county licensing agency are continuing to look at Just for Kids, which was licensed on Jan. 1.

Records show that almost from the beginning, Sampson-Monroe was resistant to licensing reviews.

County inspector Nancy Gomez visited the center Jan. 27. Sampson-Monroe removed papers from files Gomez intended to review and then halted the inspection, according to a memo Gomez sent to her supervisor.

"I don't care who you all send to me," Sampson-Monroe told Gomez, according to the memo, "I don't like any of you, and I will treat you all the same."

Sampson-Monroe posted $8,000 bail on Thursday morning. Attempts to reach her for comment were not successful.

Times staff writers Robbyn Mitchell and Colleen Jenkins contributed to this report. Rebecca Catalanello can be reached at rcatalanello@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3383.

Hillsborough County shuts down Tampa day care center 06/19/09 [Last modified: Sunday, June 21, 2009 9:41am]

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