NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) - Virginia's Department of Social Services is now investigating a Newport News daycare and two fired workers after pictures of children were posted on Instagram.
When a mother saw a picture of her son with a mocking caption online, she was both heartbroken and furious. First, she called the daycare center, whose employees posted and commented on the picture, and then she called WAVY.com
"I was concerned about my child, and I was hurt because I trusted them with Ethan," said Ethan's mother, Melissa Jordan on Thursday.
Ethan Jordan is nearly three years old. He’s full of energy, loves to run, and is quick with a smile, which makes the pictures of a sad Ethan sitting in a highchair at the daycare very uncharacteristic.
"I don't know why he is sitting in a highchair at three-years-old. I don't know how long he's been in the highchair. He looks so pathetic and miserable. He looks so defeated in that picture," Jordan said.
The picture taken last week of Ethan at A Heavenly Haven Learning Center 2 in Newport News was posted on Instagram by employee Jena Ferrel. On Instagram, she was known as “mz_oneofakind" at the time the picture was posted.
"I was disgusted, and my feelings were hurt because they are making fun of Ethan because he isn't able to talk. They are making a joke out of him," Jordan said.
Ferrel wrote 'I'm sick of this S***” in a comment under the picture.
Ethan has delayed speech development, which is already concerning to his mother.
Heavenly Haven’s manager also commented on the picture of Ethan: "he is thinking cuz sure can't talk."
"What? I pay them to humiliate my child?" said Jordan.
Ferrel also posted a picture of another child on Instagram whose teeth she insinuated resemble Mater from the movie "Cars."
"I don't know who these children are. I don't know their parents. I don't know how to get in touch with them. They have to know kids are on the internet being exploited. I don't know how else to tell them,” Jordan said.
WAVY.com went to Heavenly Haven Thursday to confront operator Juanita Brown about her employees. Brown said the employees had been fired, but would not make any other comment in person. She later sent the following statement:
Thank you, Wavy Tv10, clients, family & friends for giving A Heavenly Haven an opportunity to clear any doubts you may have about the care and love we give to our children and their families. A Heavenly Haven, myself and the staff ask that you please forgive us for any actions that have surfaced regarding allegations. We would also like to take this time to publicly apologize to Ms. Jordan and her family. A Heavenly Haven's position on the actions of the employees involved zero tolerance, and the employee's have been terminated. A Heavenly Haven is a Christian-based Childcare Development Center that has served the Peninsula for over 15 years. We have an excellent record and long term relationship with many families we have served on the Peninsula. This incident, caused by an employee, does not reflect who we are as a childcare provider nor will it deter us from providing a safe and nurturing environment for our children.
WAVY.com learned Ferrell and the daycare's manager have been fired for violating the business' policy -- employees are not allowed to bring cameras into a daycare classroom.
Even though Ferrell didn't mind putting children on camera, she did not want to appear on camera herself when WAVY.com stopped by her Newport News apartment.
The Virginia Department of Social Services inspected A Heavenly Haven Learning Center 2 on Brick Kiln Road on March 20. The report listed ten violations, including not updating employee background checks every three years, not making sure employees had TB tests done, and not making sure professional references were completed prior to employment.
The only response WAVY.com could get from social services about Heavenly Haven was a statement from Joron Moore-Planter at the office in Richmond.
"Regarding A Heavenly Haven Learning Center 2, we have received information relating to the allegation and have an initiated an investigation," she said.
On Friday, social services sent a corrective action report from Heavenly Haven's Juanita Brown, showing she has or will correct the violations.
Stay with WAVY.com for the latest information on A Heavenly Haven Learning Center 2's inspection status.
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