NH child center remains open a year after DHHS ordered revocation of director's license
ANTRIM — The Department of Health and Human Services ordered the revocation of Director Heidi Risman-Jones' child care program license almost a year ago, but her early learning center remains open.
"It has made our workplace extraordinarily difficult everyday; stressful; unknown," said Risman-Jones, the director of Antrim's Blossoms Early Learning Center.
The early learning center has been open for about three years, and Risman-Jones has worked in early childhood education for over 20.
"I can't think of a more important job than helping children develop," she said.
DHHS issued the revocation order on April 15, 2016, for "substantially or repeatedly violating any provisions of the license or permit used, per RSA 170-E:12 IV by the use of corporal punishment and other forms of discipline that are harmful to the emotional well-being of children in your care."
Risman-Jones appealed the revocation, telling NH1 News, "I would never use corporal punishment on a child."
According to the DHHS revocation order, Risman-Jones is accused of pulling children while disciplining them and forcefully restraining children.
The department also reported that Risman-Jones would force children to eat, "including spooning food into the mouth of a child who had repeatedly indicated she was 'done,' 'shoving' bottles into a child's mouth, and 'overly coaching' children to eat, sometimes to the point it would make a child cry."
A staff member made allegations that Risman-Jones shamed or humiliated children for toilet accidents.
"She said things like 'we do not go in our pull-up. If you going to go in your pull-up, you're not going outside and you're not going to do big boy things, and big boys don't pee in their pull-ups,'" according to documents provided by DHHS.
Risman-Jones also is accused of failing to keep information about children confidential after she allegedly "identified a child with special needs to someone touring the program." DHHS said she also made writen notes about children's health issues on attendance records where other families could see them.
DHHS held an appeal hearing on Dec. 21 and 22, according to Risman-Jones. She said past and present staff along with parents came as witnesses to show their support for her.
"I've had very supportive parents. The children are wonderful. I just do my best," Risman-Jones said.
Risman-Jones is waiting for a verdict on her case.
According to Melissa Clement, chief of the Child Care Licensing Unit, DHHS ordered the revocation of four child care program licenses in 2016, one of which was the center belonging to Risman Jones. Antrim's Blossoms Early Learning Center remains open during the appeal, but the other three revocations led to immediate closures, Clement said.