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Army investigates daycare after report of inappropriate touching

Editor’s note: This article covers incidents of child abuse. Army Times does not identify victims or individuals impacted by sexual abuse.

Army officials are investigating a report that a preschool-aged child was touched inappropriately multiple times by another child at an Army-run daycare center in Pennsylvania. The parents of the affected child say officials delayed notifying them of the incident by more than 24 hours, raising questions about whether employees followed proper procedures.

The mother of the impacted child told several media outlets that center employees downplayed the severity of the incidents.

Army officials say they’ve followed Army procedures and made recommended changes at the Moore Child Development Center, where the incidents took place, at Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania, home of the Army War College. The center provides childcare programs for children ages six weeks to five years old, is accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children and is Department of Defense certified.

On the morning of Dec. 6, a childcare center employee “observed possible inappropriate behavior between two preschool-aged children,” according to a statement provided by Carlisle Barracks spokesman Curt Keester.

The following morning, Dec. 7, leaders there formed a multidisciplinary team that included personnel from Child Youth Services, the Family Advocacy Program, Army Community Services, according to the statement. The Family Advocacy Program manager began personally notifying the affected families about the incident and offered services and resources.

But the mother of the 4-year-old child told Military.com that the first known incident of inappropriate touching happened on Dec. 5, two days before she was notified. The child’s mother initially posted about the incident to the Army Reddit page. Army Times was unable to reach the mother for comment by deadline.

“They didn’t tell us anything that happened,” the mother told Military.com.

“Our preschooler was actually penetrated three to four times in a 48-hour period and they allowed us to drop off our child the following morning like nothing happened, a full 24 hours later,” she told Task and Purpose.

The caregiver reported the incident to childcare leadership, who then notified the Family Advocacy Program manager, who immediately notified the family advocacy clinical case manager, Army Criminal Investigation Division and Child Protection Services, according to the Army’s statement. Officials reviewed security camera footage that showed “several seconds-long incidents of apparently mutual, inappropriate behavior between the two preschoolers,” Keester said.

Parents of children involved were notified within 24 hours of childcare staff identifying the incident, according to the statement.

On Dec. 11, the command began informing all parents who use the childcare center and described what actions were being taken to prevent future incidents, Keester said.

Meanwhile, Army CID opened an investigation, which is ongoing. Army spokesman Brian Fickel told Military.com.

Army officials say they’ve followed Army procedures and made recommended changes at the center.

Citing the sensitive nature of the investigation, Keester and Army officials declined further comment to Army Times queries beyond the statement provided Thursday.

Keester told Task and Purpose that on Dec. 18 and 19 a team from the Army’s Installation Command visited the facility and recommended the center implement supplemental staff training, proper supervision ratios and reinforcement of appropriate classroom routines and boundaries. Since the visit, the center has put protocols in place “to increase visibility and supervision” in the classroom, including added staff and “removing any potential visual obstructions.”

Army policies on day cares

Defense Department rules governing child development programs specifically state in DOD Instruction 6060.02 that all child development programs have procedures for reporting suspected child abuse, and that within the center children “can be observed at all times by parents and supervisors.” That includes using closed-circuit television, vision panels and convex mirrors.

Army officials told media outlets that a camera in the room where the incidents occurred was at least partially obstructed by furniture.

In May 2019, the Defense Department issued DOD Instruction 6400.01 on the Family Advocacy Program, outlining, in part, procedures and services for problematic sexual behavior in children and youth.

The instruction notes it is DOD policy to document this behavior and provide “trauma-informed assessment, rehabilitation and treatment” to persons who are involved in such alleged incidents who are eligible to receive treatment at a military treatment facility.

Army officials said families involved in the incident were provided resources on healthy and problematic sexual behavior in children. Officials recommended a parent guide and the books “My Body is Mine” and “Good Touch Bad Touch.”

A 2020 Government Accountability Office report noted issues — such as standalone databases, information-sharing challenges and installation discretion — can limit the Department of Defense tracking of child abuse and child-on-child abuse at military installations.

“Further, Family Advocacy Program (FAP) installation personnel are given considerable discretion in deciding how reported incidents of child abuse are tracked and reported,” according to the GAO report. That was also true “with regard to incidents of child-on-child abuse.”

The report noted that “Victim’s families receive inconsistent levels of information related to the response process and available services after an incident of child abuse is reported.”

At the time of the report, the Family Advocacy Program only reviewed incidents of child abuse where the alleged offender was a parent or caregiver. The program would not present incidents to the Incident Determination Committee — the installation-based committee responsible for reviewing reports and determining whether they meet Defense Department criteria for abuse — when the alleged offender was another child, according to the GAO report.

More recently, in June 2021 Army Secretary Christine Wormuth signed a directive to establish policies and procedures for installation response to problematic sexual behavior in children and youth, Military.com noted.

The directive notes several factors that trigger installation response, one of which is “intrusive sexual behavior, such as penetration.”

It also requires Army officials review any report or allegation of problematic sexual behavior in children and youth and conduct a review to “recommend treatment, counseling or other intervention for youth exhibiting or impacted by incidents of (problematic sexual behavior in children and youth).”

Army Times sought confirmation from the Army Office of the Chief of Public Affairs on Thursday that the 2021 directive’s guidance had been incorporated into Army regulations. Army public affairs officials could not provide a response by deadline. The official Army Publishing Directorate website shows the most recent edition of 608-18, which is the document governing the Army Family Advocacy Program, was dated September 2011.

Suspected incidents of child abuse or neglect should be reported by calling 911, the nearest Family Advocacy Program office, or the DoD Child Abuse Report Line at 877-790-1197, or 571-372-5348 OCONUS.

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