Father outraged after 3 kids found wandering away from daycare

Investigation underway after 3 kids wandered from daycare

COLERAIN TWP., Ohio (FOX19) - An investigation is underway after three kids wandered away from Smart Start Childcare in Colerain Township on Wednesday.

Hamilton County Jobs and Family Services officials say the children were not hurt and are back home with their parents, but a woman says around 11 a.m. she was leaving the pediatrician’s office when she noticed three little kids standing at the side of the road.

Amanda Lawhorn says two little boys and one little girl were just inches away from busy Harrison Avenue.

She says she knew she needed to assist the 911 caller in making sure the kids didn't get hurt.

"I came up and grab their wrists right away and the lady was on the phone with 911 and had asked ‘what are you doing’ and the oldest said ‘I am crossing the road,’” Lawhorn said.

She says she then made sure the kids got away from the road by taking them back to the driveway. Lawhorn says that's when daycare workers came running down the hill.

"Up until that point no one was out looking for these kids at all,” she said. “"I said ‘why are they out here’ and that's when she held up a harness clip and said ‘well they got this off the gate and got out.”

Lawhorn says daycare workers told her there were a lot of kids in the play area at the time.

Parent reacts to toddlers wandering away from day care

Scarlett Grome, was one of the three toddlers who walked away from the daycare.

“The director, Haley, called to tell us there had been an incident saying that Scarlett escaped with two other toddlers through a gate but were only out a minute and had made it down the driveway to about the dumpster," her father Mark Grome said.

Mark says it wasn’t until later in the evening that he found out that the children made it all the way down to the street.

“This is Harrison Avenue," he said. “Big trucks, semi’s are just as common as passenger cars. I mean, last night went from alright settling down... she’s OK to kind of getting worked up and almost a little enraged," he said.

Hamilton County Jobs and Family Services officials said Colerain Police alerted them to the situation and they are now investigating. They confirm the kids got out of a gated play area.

"If the lady in the car hadn’t stopped and drawn my attention either, this would have been a very different story. As a mom and an ER nurse, I know how these things can go and I think you would’ve had me down here in the roadway using my skills to try and save a child that probably couldn’t have been saved or multiple children,” Lawhorn said.

Smart Start Childcare management sent FOX19 NOW the following statement:

"Our center takes great pride in providing a safe environment for all children at the center and yesterday we did not live up to that standard. We feel terrible about the incident and are doing everything we can to ensure it doesn’t happen again. This includes changing the locks on the gate and adjusting our teachers positions on the playground so this can be prevented going forward. Smart Start bought the center less than a year ago and we used the same locks that the previous owner used for the past 10 years with no issues. That being said, we still take full responsibility for the incident. We are also currently evaluating the incident and determining what disciplinary actions will be taken.

We contacted ODJFS yesterday to inform them of the incident, talked to the police who were on site, as well as called the parents of the children right away. We gave them our best explanation of what happened based on the information we had at that time. We are doing everything possible to cooperate with the state, parents and whoever else is concerned to keep everyone informed and ensure something like this never happens again. We are extremely sorry this happened and hope we never have to put anyone through this again."

Hamilton County Jobs and Family Services officials say this is a case that will likely make its way to the state level with Ohio Family Jobs and Services taking over the investigation.

FOX19 NOW did speak with a parent who has a child at the daycare, and they said the daycare notified all parents about what happened and they also said they are buying new locks and a bell to ensure this doesn’t happen again.

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