Toddler escapes from South Carolina day care, documents show

One mother is demanding better for her children after what she said were questionable experiences at a day care in South Carolina.
Published: Aug. 7, 2023 at 11:02 AM CDT

CHARLESTON COUNTY, S.C. (WCSC/Gray News) - A mother is demanding better for her children after what she said were questionable experiences at a South Carolina day care, WCSC reports.

April Gilliard said her children attended Sunshine House for two years before she ultimately pulled them from the center after hearing a toddler escaped and was found wandering.

Witness reports from Sunshine House staff, which were received from the Department of Social Services, said a toddler escaped from a gate while on the playground and was found by staff in the arms of a truck driver.

Gilliard said the day care never addressed what happened to the other parents, but that she was made aware of the situation through a post on social media.

“I asked about it and was told that wasn’t true,” Gilliard said. “I was told it was the previous director who was trying to sabotage the reputation or the name of the center.”

Gilliard said she had her own questionable experiences at the day care as well. Some days she had trouble getting in contact with the facility to check on her kids. On other days, when she received pictures from staff, it looked like too many children were in one classroom.

“When I got to the center, I asked, ‘How was your day? What’s going on? Did you guys have to combine classrooms?’” Gilliard said. “None of that was really communicated.”

She said the social media post about the escaped toddler was her final straw.

“It makes me question what happened prior to this incident,” Gilliard said.

Documents show inadequate supervision at the day care has been an ongoing problem since 2015.

According to Department of Social Services documents, the agency found deficiencies in eight separate visits to the center in areas like improper child-to-caregiver ratio, unqualified caregivers, inadequate supervision or improper accounting for the presence of children.

Gillard said by sharing her experiences, she is advocating for her own children and other children in the community.

“These are issues that are going on, and no one is being held accountable. No one is actually speaking on it, and some parents don’t have social media to find out or learn about these things,” Gilliard said.

Sunshine House commented in part: “This past May, at our school in Mount Pleasant on Long Point Road, a child on the playground opened an exterior gate and was able to leave the premises and walk through the parking lot. The safety and well-being of the children in our care is our highest priority. While the child was, thankfully, returned unharmed to the school two minutes later, we are distraught that this occurred.”

The center said that the child’s family was contacted after the incident and the center officially notified the state licensor and Child Protective Services, per procedures. The teachers involved are no longer employed with the company.

The playground gate was functioning and closed at the time of the incident, the facility said, and they have since installed a state-approved gate lock. The day care also said an adequate number of teachers were watching the children at the time of the incident.

The Department of Social Services said that the day care provider is no longer part of the ABC Quality program in June “due to documented serious safety violations and the provider has not appealed the decision. Providers must be enrolled in the ABC Quality program to accept childcare scholarship funds issued by the Department of Social Services per federal guidelines.”