An Arlington day care is under investigation after parents say their 4-year-old son with autism was left unattended to wander out into a busy parking lot.
The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services confirmed it was investigating Creative Minds Childcare in Arlington for the incident, which Arlington police confirmed happened Feb. 3.
Janice and Justin Ayres said it was Jordon's first day at the day care. They'd enrolled him, because it was Janice's first day at a new job.
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Knowing their son was active non-verbal, they said they spent time researching a safe and reliable childcare center.
The couple said they informed staff at Creative Minds their son had autism and were reassured he would be fine. Still, they didn't make it through the first day before a problem arose.
"I received a phone call at around 1:50 from the Arlington Police Department telling us, 'Your son is OK, but there was an incident,'" Janice Ayres said.
According to Arlington police, employees at the Kroger a few doors down from Creative Minds called them after they found Jordon wandering their parking lot alone.
"Anything could've happened. He was in the parking lot," Janice Ayres said.
When the Ayreses arrived, they said the daycare told them Jordon had been removed from his classroom.
"There was an employee that was supposed to be in the room with him watching him. She supposedly walked out of the room to let another parent into the day care. And that's when he left the room or escaped the room he was in," Justin Ayres said.
Over the phone, owner Belinda Langely responded to the claims and confirmed Jordon was left alone and walked out of the building unnoticed.
"From the bottom of my heart, I wish I could change what happened," she said.
Langely later sent the following statement.
"Jordan’s (sic) parents failed to disclose that there son is autistic and is labeled 'a runner and a climber.' Upon the arrival of the father, he made these comments: that the son had escaped from the last daycare and he’s also known for escaping from home. Jordan’s (sic) father also explain that they had pulled Jordan (sic) out from another daycare for the same problem. The father's reaction to the incident was not of shock but it appeared more of commonality.
"This is obviously a common occurrence because the parents returned Jordan back to the daycare on Tuesday morning without any complaints or discussion. It wasn’t until the Mother was advised that for the safety of all children we could no longer accept him, therefore we terminated his enrollment."
But the Ayreses denied Langely's claims, and said they did inform staff of Jordon's autism, that he left his last day care when Janice lost her job and that they made the decision to withdraw Jordon from Creative Minds.
Now that he's in a new facility, they said they wanted other parents to learn from their story.
"You know, when parents are looking for new day cares, make sure they're diligent in their search," Justin Ayres said.
Arlington police said they suspended a criminal case against Creative Minds because detectives were “unable to identify anyone who knowingly, intentionally or recklessly abandoned the victim."
In DFPS's investigation, "Child Care Investigations will work to determine whether abuse or neglect has occurred and whether there were any violations of the minimum standards for child care. The findings of our investigation will be turned over to the TX Health and Human Services Commission, the agency that licenses and monitors day cares. Investigations can take up to 30 days to complete."