Stepping Stones Learning Center in Sherman will remain on state-imposed probation until July 2019 after the child care facility was cited for 181 safety violations over the past three years.


The Austin American-Statesman recently reported the Sherman facility was cited for 181 safety violations and notable infractions included “uncovered electrical outlets, refusing to give children water during snacks, bugs in the bathroom and out-of-control children.” Stepping Stones Director Joann Thomas said the center has addressed the issues mentioned in the newspaper report and has been making “progress” in its improvement efforts.


The Texas Health and Human Services Commission, which oversees the state’s Child Care Licensing division, said Stepping Stones’ total number of deficiencies has dropped since its last two inspections, but added that any child care operation that demonstrates an inability to maintain compliance during a probation period can have its license revoked.


“The last monitoring inspection (of Stepping Stones) was on Dec. 4, and we cited four deficiencies,” HHS Press Officer Kelli Weldon said in an emailed statement Thursday. “Two deficiencies were related to hand-washing after diaper changing and toileting, one was related to failing to sanitize the diaper changing table between changes, and one was for failing to meet one of the corrective action conditions when the operation did not complete transition logs for each classroom.”


Stepping Stones, which is located in the 1500 block of Baker Road, opened in 2001. Thomas said the facility currently serves 70 children who range in age from infancy to 13 years old, and services are provided by 10 staff members. The director said she was satisfied with the pace at which changes were being made and believed parents and families of enrolled children were also pleased.


“They’re happy and they’re continuing to stay with us,” Thomas said. “So, I think we’ve done a real good job in continuing to get things addressed and done.”


But Thomas and at least one other day care owner cited in the Statesman report expressed disagreement with the way infractions were either assessed or recorded by the state.


“Several of us do, because it’s all based on how the (licensing) representative decides things are supposed to be done,” Thomas said of the way in which the Child Care Licensing division recorded infractions. “Regulations are not black and white. There’s a lot of interpretation that can be done and it makes it extremely difficult, sometimes, for us to follow the regulations.”


The Statesman’s corporate owner, GateHouse Media, also owns the Texoma Marketing and Media Group, which publishes the Herald Democrat. The Statesman’s full report into cited child care facilities and state oversight is available on its website and at http://gatehousenews.com/unwatched/overview/site/statesman.com.