Reports of abuse at Army day care spurs call from Obama
President Barack Obama urged U.S. Army Secretary John McHugh to conduct an investigation into the hiring practices at Army day care facilities after reports of abuse.
December 19th, 2012
11:31 PM ET

Reports of abuse at Army day care spurs call from Obama

By Barbara Starr

President Barack Obama made the rare move of calling the secretary of the Army on Tuesday night to express concern about reports of abuse at an Army child care facility, U.S. officials told CNN.

"The president made clear that we must have a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to protecting the children of service members from abuse. The president urged Secretary (John) McHugh to conduct the investigation into its hiring practices at (Army day care facilities)," a White House official told CNN's Lesa Jansen.

It is highly unusual for the president to call a military service secretary regarding a criminal matter, said a senior U.S. defense official who has served at the Pentagon for more than a decade.

The Department of Defense is now reviewing the hiring procedures at military day care centers and other youth facilities after the September arrests of two workers at Fort Myer in Virginia. The workers were charged Tuesday with "assault on a child under the age of 16" in connection with incidents that occurred in September.

After the arrests, the Army looked at the workers' backgrounds and realized that they were questionable and that the workers should not have been hired, according to a defense official.

While the problem had been known for some time, the situation was not brought to Pentagon leadership, including Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, until Tuesday night, U.S. officials said.

The Army began looking at all 130 day care workers at Fort Myer. Not all were directly involved in child care. The review found that 30 employees had questionable backgrounds, including records of sexual abuse of a minor, sexual assault and assault, although some of the charges had been dropped, according to one official. There were also some minor offenses. None was on the national registry of sex offenders.

However, another senior Department of Defense official told CNN that such charges would have disqualified the staffers from working in a day care facility with children.

The 30 employees were removed Friday out of "an abundance of caution," according to Col. Fern Sumpter, garrison commander at Fort Myer.

McHugh first learned the extent of the problem Friday. The same day, parents were notified that the center was closing due to a lack of staff, though officials could not say whether the parents were told the reason. The Department of Defense sent inspection teams Monday, but McHugh did not inform Panetta of the problems until Tuesday.

Panetta met with Obama Tuesday afternoon, according to the White House schedule. On the same day, the defense secretary ordered a review of hiring procedures at all of the military's child development centers.

"As a department, protecting our service members and their families is paramount. That includes doing everything we can to provide for the safety of children attending (child development centers) throughout the department and ensuring they are provided with the highest quality care by dedicated professionals," Panetta said in a statement.

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Filed under: Army • Obama • Panetta
soundoff (67 Responses)
  1. Gordon Chiong

    March 4, 2021 at 10:07 am | Reply
  2. Rachel

    This my son's story. It's imperative that his story gets out and brings awareness to all daycares.

    March 12, 2013 at 9:10 am | Reply
  3. Real Estate Law Lawyer

    Another great article thanks for the details along with good read. Real Estate Law Lawyer

    February 5, 2013 at 9:55 pm | Reply
    • randallhurd2013

      If the President wanted to start aould be investigation and just totally skip the IG, that in itself wrong, because in order to see the flaws across the board you'd have to talk with everyone. But that Cocaine bust and the on post civilian family that terrorized DOD and Military families with theft rape and BnE complaints that went on for years with nothing or no resources to expel and bar them from post the Saenze criminals would have been gone long before I got to that post. One of my kids was had to go to the FT Bliss Hospital more than one and on an Ambulance from getting attacked by them pushing my Sons Head into a Bulldozer Bucket that some contractor left behind. So Yeah, between the School accusing my youngest sons of Bugs in his ear 6 – 8 times so they wouldn't have to teach him on post because if his disabilities, and my other sons fighting with the post civilian family that was selling cocaine and marijuana to the kids in the middle school. I still have some bad crap I'm dealing with today over than. I had no help from anyone on that post and it wasn't for lack of trying. It just main stream post problems were no where as severe as what I went through. No one knew how to deal with it. The teachers there I hope got it together after I left that post, bu I know that probably didn't happen.Try not sleeping for a year after that and still stuck with insomnia.

      February 6, 2013 at 3:59 pm | Reply
  4. AFMom

    My kids attended Fort Myer 3 years ago. The teachers, especially in the infant room with my son, were amazing ladies who clearly loved children. I'm sad that they are caught up in this negative incident. There were some teachers that did not give me a good vibe (doesn't mean they were criminals) and I made sure to keep my kids out of their rooms. All in all, my kids were happy and the pre-school program gave my child an excellent start in kindergarten.

    January 8, 2013 at 8:46 am | Reply
    • Randall Hurd

      I know there are good teachers out there. But when you have a severely disabled Child, that's a game changer. There where a couple incidence where teachers deliberately ignored other children who were mistreating my youngest son. They would slap him in the head while running in the school hallways passing by. Even punching him in the face. You can't imagine what that feels like hearing that from second had. I saw the bruises, but the school said nothing.

      January 8, 2013 at 1:52 pm | Reply
  5. Randall Hurd

    I have one better than that at White Sands Missile Range where kids were selling Cocain for the father who was a CIV employee at the Chow Hall. My kids tookk the worst of that one and I kept all the DOD Police reports, Also had a Disabled child that was abused by the base Elementary School. Keot send him to medical about roaches in his ear that never existed.

    December 28, 2012 at 7:30 pm | Reply
  6. NotSurprised!

    As one who has the opportunity to observe military classrooms for quality, I walked away totally surprised and disappointed. I had always been told that on post child care was the best, well I have to say the only time I ever observed a child yanked in front of me, was in a on post center. I have observed classrooms for quality for over ten years...

    December 28, 2012 at 11:31 am | Reply
  7. Dwight D. Eisenhower

    you should shoot yourself for voting for obama ...

    December 21, 2012 at 6:53 pm | Reply
  8. George Patton

    Considering the great amount of money that this government lavishes on the military, this kind of thing could have been prevented but no, instead the money is being spent on research to build more efficient killing machines in order to kill more people in less time! This is just plain wrong!!!

    December 20, 2012 at 5:49 pm | Reply
    • lj

      Lavish!????the Military hahahahahhahahahah...i have family in the military...they get the worst pay..and they have to pay for everything!!!!! all their safety gear, ... dont kid you self...lavish...when they should pay the soldiers more than, sports players, newscaster...where they get millions...goodness...our military put their lives on the line for us...

      December 20, 2012 at 6:57 pm | Reply
      • JohnParryJones

        Our military is voluntary. If you don't like it, do your job properly to the end of your enlistment then don't reenlist.

        December 23, 2012 at 6:04 pm |
      • April

        Well said.

        December 27, 2012 at 8:06 pm |
      • April

        and I mean well said to you lj, not the idiot above me who obviously has never served their Country, just sits back and soaks up the freedoms that we Soldiers fight for so they can have stupidity written everywhere and come spewing out of their worthless mouth.

        December 27, 2012 at 8:10 pm |
    • Dwight D. Eisenhower

      The shooting in CT Sandy Hook school exemplifies that the gov't cannot protect your children no matter how much money they spend. The gov't only cares about the gov't. Anyone who leaves their kids in a gov't run or supv. daycare is an idiot.

      December 21, 2012 at 6:52 pm | Reply
      • Omar Bradley

        Hey D!ckhead, they do it because they live on a large post and can't drive off to get to another and be at work. It's called life. No why don't you go fix me a sandwich?

        January 4, 2013 at 1:39 pm |
    • Omar Bradley

      There goes that sh!tbag using a great general's name to peddle his Liberal Hate speech. It would be lovely to meet him in person. There he would display himself as the loud talking whiney self-justified kid everyone hated in HS. Do the right thing and practice the art of Sepukku on yourself and let me know how it goes Mr Hate.

      January 4, 2013 at 1:38 pm | Reply
  9. Michele

    unlike civilian day care facilities, CDCs are thoroughly regulated by the Army and why I have chosen to have my kids enrolled. The CDCs also provide age appropriate education on deployments and they understand the psychological effects of deployments on children. My child didn't receive the same care at a civilian facility when both my husband and I deployed. I am suprised that this facility passed the rigourous quarterly, semi-annual and annual inspections which do look at hiring practices. At one CDC for which my oldest was enrolled, I did encounter poor care. However, the regulations provided me the ability to correct the care through the firing of 6 teachers and retraining for the entire post.

    December 20, 2012 at 12:59 pm | Reply
  10. Original Lorelei

    I worked at an on base child care center overseas while in High School on summer breaks. The rooms were always clean, the meals were always freshly made and the people that worked there saw the children as their own. I never saw any kind of abuse or disrespect on anyone's part, the care givers or the children. Please don't generalize, especially if you yourself have never been associated with one of these facilities. These facilities were generally used because you wouldn't have the choice to leave your children at a daycare on the economy and it was a great way to visit your children on lunch breaks.

    December 20, 2012 at 11:47 am | Reply
  11. Claire

    My child has attended this center for 3 years and I have had nothing but positive experiences. She loves her care givers and so do I–they are very open and involved in the education and care she receives. I hope this situation gets resolved soon, I hate seeing this daycare in such a negative spotlight.

    December 20, 2012 at 10:02 am | Reply
  12. PSN

    Geez. We've been utilizing the Army's CDC's for seven years and have never encountered anything like this. The centers we used to go to performed detailed background checks before hiring and lead positions required childcare education degrees. This is insane. Someone absolutely dropped the ball. I hope the Ft. Myer CDC's open back up quickly; this puts the parents in a horrible position, especially those who work but have no family in the area.

    December 20, 2012 at 9:53 am | Reply
  13. IvotedforObama

    I served and there are good Army daycares and bad ones.

    December 20, 2012 at 9:51 am | Reply
  14. sharpe

    i am appalled by the supposed fact that day care centers (for the military or not) do not perform background checks on future employees. every job that i have ever had has done background checks before i was hired. i would certainly expect a background check to be done for a job dealing with day care (for children or adults). something is wrong when a person can get hired at a child day care facility with no background check.

    December 20, 2012 at 9:44 am | Reply
    • Sha- Purposed by God to love children

      This is sad, however, what we need to understand isa that a person can have an impecable back ground check, but still be a terrible person for children. Unfortunately, it only means that they have never been convicted, or shall we say "caught". We cannot base this solely on background checks. This is a good start to access background checks, but the real work begins once they are placed in a room with children. We have to continue to monitor and and act accordingly and not get a false sense of security because the background check is clear. I feel that we need to continue to be mindful of who we have with our children and give Directors the support needed to weed out the people that this is only a job to, and to celebrate those who truly have a heart for children.

      December 24, 2012 at 8:09 am | Reply
  15. ArmyRetired

    I would suspect that since it was on a military base that a lot of the workers are spouses of active duty or retired servicemen/servicewomen. That was my experience when I was active duty.

    December 20, 2012 at 9:43 am | Reply
    • PSN

      At the CDC's we've used, most of the workers were locals.

      December 20, 2012 at 9:54 am | Reply
    • Anna

      This isn't isolated. My daughter was abused at the Day Care on base. I reported it & was slammed for doing so. I was literally called a bad mother by the Center Director because I was military & had her at daycare, "a good mother would be home with her child. This might not have happened". I contacted the IG who also didn't want to do an investigation. Needless to say I never took her back. I don't trust day cares at military facilities because very few are professional.

      December 20, 2012 at 9:56 am | Reply
    • ArmyRetired

      Also, this is a widespread issue. Often hear about these problems at civilian facilities accross the US. I'm sure it's hard to regulate/inspect these places as there are a lot to include home daycare. If your kid doesn't want to go back and gives you a fit about it, maybe you should see if something is going on.

      December 20, 2012 at 10:02 am | Reply
  16. MC

    This is what happens when by-name hiring is used behind the scenes.

    December 20, 2012 at 9:41 am | Reply
  17. Kris Gunnarsson

    I suspect that low pay determines the pool of available applicants. The lower the pay the lower in the barrel you pick from.

    December 20, 2012 at 9:33 am | Reply
  18. ffortnightly

    The military treats families like crap, particularly enlisted "dependents" (as they are called, not even people anymore). Our military would be smaller and more efficient if we didn't involve families. If you're a soldier and want a family, retire or don't reenlist. Why drag a family into such a crappy life of government dependency?

    December 20, 2012 at 9:08 am | Reply
    • April

      That's pretty messed up to say that people shouldn't have a family because they're in the military. Do you know how ignorant you sound right now? As a former soldier of 11 years and as the spouse of an active duty Soldier, I just really want to punch you in the face for your comment right now. My husband and I have one, soon to be two, children together, I am a stay at home mom now because the military wouldn't facilitate us both staying in. I would've gladly stayed in and retire at 20 years, but my family means more to me. There is nothing wrong with being active duty, guard, reserves or whatever branch you choose and having a family.

      My husband and I always joke about his hours as a drill sergeant and how if the military wanted you to have a spouse or family they would've issued you one, our son is 15 months old and has rarely seen him except for the few weeks of break time they get between their 14 week cycles. However, WE made the conscious decision to get married and 5 years later have a child.... there is nothing wrong with having a family and being in the military. Do you know how limited the Armed Forces would be if you told people they could not enlist if they have children or a family? We'd be back to the days of an involuntary Army because nobody was enlist.

      December 27, 2012 at 8:15 pm | Reply
      • Old duck

        The military doesn't care if members are married – they even pay dependent allotments and other benefits, however the provision of housing, daycare, schools, and special leaves because of dependents is too high a budget item – last time I checked there were 50,000 non-combatents housed in Europe – essentially on vacation at gov't expense. I was married while in the navy, and never made it home more than once a month, and at one point it was seven months at sea, but I was a volunteer, and my family also did their part for the service.

        December 28, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
    • April

      By the way – have you ever served or are you just a dependent that likes to run their mouth too?

      December 27, 2012 at 8:16 pm | Reply
  19. Diane

    I hire caregivers for the elderly and nobody goes to work without a background check and at least 2 verifiable references.. there may be a possibility of children/grandchildren in the home so a ChildLine verification is required.
    I did childcare in the 90's, my home was inspected, and I had an FBI background check done on all the adults in the home. There is absolutely no excuse for hiring employees with questionable backgrounds to take care of children or anyone else for that matter. … I had a man bring his children to me after a recommendation from another parent…the person who had been taking care of his two boys had been locking them in a room and leaving them there till it was time for him to come get them…they were two and three years old! Word of advice to parents out there…ask the right questions and be diligent about their care.

    December 20, 2012 at 8:43 am | Reply
    • h

      An agency sent a woman to my mpother'shome to care for her whomy family recongnized as having her parental rights severed for severe abuse if her children.She had criminal charges for the abuse.She was in aregistry that she couldnot work with childrenyet they hiredher toworkwith the vulnerableelderly.

      December 20, 2012 at 9:03 am | Reply
  20. AGeek

    So you're accused of something you quite possibly never did, seeing as the charges were dropped ...and you're still fired? That's special. Don't wonder why the unemployment rate is high when you've got this kind of mentality out there, just ruining innocent lives.

    December 20, 2012 at 8:38 am | Reply
    • Prohibition Harms

      Yes and take a look at teh failed drug war. They have essentially marked thousands of people with dumb drug crimes that ruin their lives forever. Yes this is you war on drugs big time. In addition to ruining your life they can take all your possesions. Quite a system we have in America to disenfranchise huge chunks of people.

      December 20, 2012 at 9:06 am | Reply
    • Jason Viper

      I agree that it is not fair to judge people if they were simply "charged". Unfortunately, this is the case with most gov't jobs nowadays (ex: military). You have to state if you were even charged or simply detained in your past, aside from any convictions. I don't think it's right either. The only difference between alot of people with a record for minor things and those without, is that they were caught. Think back to your childhood, think you never broke the law before? Drank, smoked, stole, got into a fight? If not, good for you. All that said, I think childcare providers must be held to a high standard. Certain offenses should be disqualifiers. But dropped charges or detainment shouldn't be. Should they warrant a further investigation into a person's past, yes, but should they automatically disqualify, no.

      December 20, 2012 at 10:04 am | Reply
    • A Canadian loves the USA

      It is my understanding that when charges are dropped it may be for lack of evidence that will hold up in a court of law or for the reason of plea bargaining. Dropped charges do not necessarily equate not guilty. We see quite a bit of news coverage from the USA of people treating children very poorly, particularly out of Florida. Yes, I agree with the person that said someone dropped the ball on this particular case. Who cares whom (your president) shone a light on this! Get it done. Have a good Christmas and New Year.

      December 23, 2012 at 4:22 pm | Reply
  21. G_Edwards

    "Hello John, this is Barack. I know you're already taking the right steps, but I just wanted to mention the obvious."

    December 20, 2012 at 8:14 am | Reply
    • Bob

      If you found out that nearly a quarter of those care workers had questionable or outright unacceptable backgrounds, wouldn't you feel like you need to drive a point home? Are you really using sarcasm on a guy that is just trying to make sure military kids don't get molested or beaten?

      December 20, 2012 at 8:22 am | Reply
      • A. Goodwin

        Bob – I agree 100%. And whats sad is that politics has so skewed any good our president continues to do.

        December 20, 2012 at 8:33 am |
  22. pat

    Its funny because the on base day care has always been so expensive and your children always came back looking like they got beat, always been a horrible service.

    December 20, 2012 at 8:00 am | Reply
    • Brian

      Based on your vast experience? "...always been a horrible service." A couple of questions for you... 1) When were you in the military and how long? 2) How many different CDCs did your kids attend? 3) If your kids looked like they were beat up.... did you address the issue with anyone? 4) Do you really think being anonymous on the internet making a blatant statement w/o any facts makes it true? I await your retort.

      December 20, 2012 at 8:27 am | Reply
    • Malory Archer


      Its funny because the on base day care has always been so expensive and your children always came back looking like they got beat, always been a horrible service.


      I agree with Brian. My daughters were in both preschool, and later, after school care on a Navy base. The fees were much less than childcare on the local economy, the care was excellent and they truly enjoyed themselves.

      December 20, 2012 at 8:46 am | Reply
    • Michael

      I have used the base daycare on two different bases so far for both of my children. They have both had excellent experiences at them. Neither of them have ever come home looking beaten. If there were any marks on them, the staff either called me after an incident (usually a child hitting my child or a child throwing a toy that hit my child – both of which are to be expected) or explained to me why they had a mark on them when I picked them up.

      I have always been happy with the service we have received. My daughter used to go to a base daycare in Maryland and now my son is in one in Georgia. At both places, the care givers have always treated both children with love. My children have always been excited to arrive in the mornings and see their care givers.

      As far as price goes, it really depends on the area of the country you live in and the family's income. We currently live in an area where we will be paying slightly more than the off base rates, but we used to live in an area where the price was about half that of what we would have paid off base.

      December 20, 2012 at 9:19 am | Reply
  23. empresstrudy

    So maybe that whole VOLUNTEERING while you have kids didn't turn out to be your finest hour vis a vis decision making?

    December 20, 2012 at 7:51 am | Reply
    • bozobub

      Or maybe the people had kids while they were in the service?

      You don't do a whole lot of critical thinking, do you?

      December 20, 2012 at 8:16 am | Reply
    • Brian

      I VOLUNTEERED to protect the Nation, the kids, and unfortunately idiots like you. I had kids after I came in and that is one of the main thing that motivates me everyday. These volunteers you so readily mock make so many decisions everyday that affect the life of others and maintain a family.....

      December 20, 2012 at 8:34 am | Reply
    • AL

      I'm not in the military, but my kids went to daycare - and it was a good one, which is the kind our military families should have on base. Military families don't make much and usually both parents have to work. If you think only single people should be in the military, then we won't have much in the way of troops.

      December 20, 2012 at 8:36 am | Reply
  24. LastoftheZucchiniFlowers

    It has been open season on children for TOO LONG in this nation and I am moved that we have a President who, as a parent and a human being, is NOT AFRAID to take on powerful lobbies or 'take the highly unusual steps' necessary to protect them. It's about time!

    December 20, 2012 at 7:45 am | Reply
    • G_Edwards

      It's clear that he's very comfortable and proficient at doing community organizer type of things.

      December 20, 2012 at 8:18 am | Reply
    • randymarine

      That's the worst comment ever. Atleast they had the junk to VOLUNTEER, what have you done besides soak mommy and daddy.
      Semper Fi

      December 20, 2012 at 8:19 am | Reply
      • Colinmb

        Wow. Seems your comment is completely pointless when compared to the orginal posters. Where did they comment about the soldiers themselves? Seems they are commenting that the children deserve better and makes no mention of the military at all. Seems your motto should be semper stultus (Always stupid).

        December 20, 2012 at 8:44 am |
  25. Jim

    .Too bad our president didn't show this kind of interest in our diplomats prior to the 9/11 attack in Bengasi. I guess Hilary dodged the bullet with medical issues (How convenient). On the subject of child care they need to extend this program to include all working class Americans. Maybe this is one of the Social perks the Republicans wants to cut out.

    December 20, 2012 at 7:44 am | Reply
    • Bob

      Are you implying that Hilary knew about the attack ahead of time, and decided to play hooky so she wouldn't die? If you are, you are a perfect example of why the GOP brand is in the crapper.

      December 20, 2012 at 8:15 am | Reply
    • Clarke

      Oh please stop.

      December 20, 2012 at 8:15 am | Reply
    • The Other Bob

      Talk to the Republicans who slashed the funding for security at our diplomatic installations.

      December 20, 2012 at 8:51 am | Reply
  26. temp

    I knew we shouldn't have changed DADT.

    December 20, 2012 at 7:40 am | Reply
    • jookie

      dadt has NOTHING to do with abusing children, please stop with your blatant ignorance.

      December 20, 2012 at 8:34 am | Reply
    • gabe

      Hey Temp – you are a complete idiot and certainly would never have been hired to provide care for anyone. Nobody deserves to be subject to your stupid ignorance. That is way too much for anyone to handle. Go screw yourself – but wait, you can't, you got your head up your ass.

      December 20, 2012 at 9:05 am | Reply
  27. Clarke

    The children aren't safe anywhere. We are becoming a police state, this is so shameful!

    December 20, 2012 at 7:39 am | Reply
    • AL

      I think that's always been true; now we talk about it instead of letting it go on and denying it. Lots of adults in the world were abused as children, most in their own homes.

      December 20, 2012 at 8:38 am | Reply
  28. waheid

    Unconscionable! Mismanagement and very poor leadership at various levels which call for disciplinary action.

    December 20, 2012 at 7:00 am | Reply

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