The Department of Defense on Tuesday ordered a review of hiring practices at all defense day care facilities worldwide after the Army said it was investigating about two dozen employees at one of its stateside facilities.
The probe follows the Army’s disclosure that it discovered “derogatory information” in the backgrounds of employees at its Fort Myer day care facility in the Washington, D.C., area. At least some of the employees worked directly with children, according to the service.
The Fort Myer investigation stems from the arrest of two facility employees in September on charges of assaulting children, The Associated Press reported, quoting unidentified sources.
The military branches run child development centers on many bases in the United States and around the world as a service to busy military families. The facilities usually babysit children six weeks old to kindergarten age from an hour up to an entire day.
“The safety of the children under our care is our most important responsibility,” Col. Fern Sumpter, garrison commander at Fort Myer, said in a statement. “The quality of their care and safety has been and will continue to be our most important priority.”
The Army did not immediately disclose the nature of the information in the employees’ past. The service said it had created a review board to examine the background files of about two dozen employees to determine whether they should be fired.
The Fort Myer child youth coordinator and deputy coordinator have been reassigned, the Army said.
“Out of an abundance of caution, we removed those employees and temporarily closed the facility, moving students to the Cody CDC” located on Fort Myer, according to Sumpter. “An investigation was ordered to determine whether background checks were properly done at the time these employees were hired, and whether required procedures were followed. That investigation has just begun.”
Department of Defense spokesman George Little said Tuesday the Army had discovered potential problems with security background investigations for a number of employees at the day care center.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta “fully supports this review by the Army and has directed each of the services to conduct a similar review of hiring practices at all DoD Child Development Centers,” Little said in a statement.
U.S. Air Forces in Europe, in response to questions from Stars and Stripes, said any employee accused of offenses involving a child is suspended from having contact with children in day care until the case is resolved.