The operator of a Lawrence day-care home that was shut down this week under suspicion of child abuse of a 1-year-old boy said Friday that the matter was a "total misunderstanding."
Deborah Kay Henning, 1502 W. 27th St., declined to address specifics of the case, which remains under investigation by the Lawrence Police Department and Kansas Social and Rehabilitation Services.
Earlier this week, an SRS social worker had forwarded information to state regulators that a boy at the day care allegedly had suffered burns on his legs, ankles and buttocks while at the home.
When asked Friday whether the situation was a result of an accident or something else, Henning described the matter as a misunderstanding. She then declined to discuss the issue further, out of deference to other families, she said.
Henning's license to operate a day-care home was suspended on an emergency basis Thursday by Roderick Bremby, secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. His decision came after receiving such a recommendation from an SRS social worker who was called in to investigate the alleged abuse, which also had been reported to police.
"We're always going to err on the side of caution," said Joe Blubaugh, a KDHE spokesman. "We're working with SRS, and SRS has said we think there's a reason to issue the order of suspension. We take their word for that. They have a lot of experience in that, and they're also going to err on the side of caution."
The department, which oversees more than 6,800 day-care operations statewide, issued 21 such emergency suspensions during the state's 2007 fiscal year. Such orders are designed to protect children in a licensee's care from physical abuse or a substantial threat to their health or safety.
Lawrence police declined to discuss the case, citing the ongoing investigation. Michelle Ponce, an SRS spokeswoman, confirmed that the agency was working with police on the investigation.
Henning has been registered or licensed to provide day-care services in Kansas since 1992, Blubaugh said. KDHE has received four complaints regarding Henning's operation during that time, only one of which had been substantiated. She was cited in 1998 for having too many children under her care.
As of Friday, Henning had not filed an intent to appeal suspension of her license, Blubaugh said. She has 15 days to do so.