State puts preschool on probation

A Franklin preschool will be on probation until at least July after a child left the playground and wandered into the parking lot of a store off U.S. 31.

On March 30, a Franklin police officer was flagged down after someone found the 4-year-old child in the Kohl’s parking lot. The child had left the playground at Canary Creek Head Start, which is next door to the store, according to a state report.

The preschool staff had no idea the child was gone until the police notified them, said Jill Hammer, executive director of Human Services, which runs the preschool program.

The child was missing for about 15 minutes, Hammer said.

“We took this situation very seriously. This was not something we take lightly,” Hammer said. “We pride ourselves on making sure our staffs are trained on where each person should be on the playground.”

Canary Creek Head Start has been given a probationary license after the state found a total of four violations stemming from the April 5 incident, according to the Family and Social Services Administration, which oversees day cares and preschools. Children between the ages of 3 and 5 years old attend the preschool.

The preschool was cited for not notifying Child Protective Services and the Office of Early Childhood and Out of School Learning within one hour of the incident and neglect due to lack of supervision, according to the Family and Social Services Administration.

This is the first time the preschool has been placed on probation, said Marni Lemons, deputy director of communications and media for the Family and Social Services Administration. In the past three years, the preschool has been cited by the state for minor noncompliance violations, such as not having a kitchen cleaning schedule.

Head Start has never had an incident like this at any of its seven Indiana locations, Hammer said. After the incident, all seven locations, which are located in five different counties, retrained their staffs on supervision and playground safety, Hammer said.

In the days following the incident, the preschool sent out letters to parents of children that attend Canary Creek Head Start, detailing what happened and the steps taken to ensure the incident would not happen again, such as retraining staff, Hammer said. Enrollment at Canary Creek Head Start was not impacted by the incident, and the preschool has not had anyone withdraw their child, Hammer said.

Canary Creek Head Start will operate under a probationary license until June 30, according to the Family and Social Services Administration.

In order to have the original license reinstated, Canary Creek Head Start will have to pass an inspection during its probationary period, Lemons said. The inspection could take place at any time during the two-month probationary period, and Canary Creek will not be notified ahead of time, Lemons said. If the preschool passes the inspection, the probationary period will end as scheduled on June 30, Lemons said.

Corey Elliot is a reporter at the Daily Journal. He can be reached at or 317-736-2719.