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Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2016

'Safety net' fails to save child's life

Thursday, September 6, 2001

Going back almost 10 years, the Missouri Department of health knew that all things were not right at the day care center run by Phyllis Mullins of Kansas City. Several inspections in the early '90s against the day care provider indicated the state should take action because Mullins was caring for too many children in her home.

In 1994, the Bureau of Child Care Safety and Licensure reported Mullins was caring for as many as 30 children in her home. She was licensed for 10. Much of that time, Mullins was unlicensed and permitted to care for only four children.

From 1992-94, the state recorded five complaints that anywhere from 15 to 30 children were being cared for in the home. Nine times between September 1993 and November 1994, bureau agents reported there were too many children in the home or they were not allowed inside.

Prosecutors as far back as 1994 asked that actions be taken against Mullins because of the "health, safety and welfare of children were being endangered" in the overcrowded and unlicensed facility.

The day care provider was so lax that the Missouri Attorney General's office was asked in 1995 to file charges against the overcrowded daycare provider.

But years of continued violations - including hiding children when inspectors came around - did not get the attention that would end the practice. And now it's too late.

Mullins was charged this week with second-degree murder in the death of a four-month-old infant left in her care. The child had been dropped or injured to the neck and died.

In my opinion, someone needs to be explaining the lack of action on the part of the state. Perhaps Mullins is not the only responsible party who should face criminal charges.

We stand so proud of our "safety net" in this country where agencies take direct responsibility for monitoring the young and the elderly. But somehow, a four-month-old child is dead because no one took the appropriate action years ago to remedy an illegal situation.

Phyllis Mullins will have her day in court. But the deeper question is why Missouri officials were unable to solve a problem that was so obvious for so many years. It may take drastic action against state agencies before we have the full answer. Sadly, that answer will come too late.

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