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Army investigating day care centers worldwide

Dec. 18, 2012 - 06:53PM   |   Last Updated: Dec. 18, 2012 - 06:53PM  |  
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WASHINGTON — The Army said Tuesday it will investigate hiring practices at all 283 of its child day care centers worldwide following the arrest of two Army employees accused of assaulting children at a Fort Myer, Va., day care center.

Although the Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps have not reported similar problems, the Pentagon plans to instruct each service to review its day care worker hiring practices, according to a defense official. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the military-wide review has not been announced.

After the arrests of two workers at Fort Myer on Sept. 26, the Army replaced the day care center's management team and found what the Army called "derogatory information" in the background of an unspecified number of other employees there.

Army officials did not reveal the derogatory information.

In addition, Fort Myer began a review of the background files of about two dozen other day care workers to determine whether they should be fired, the Army said. That review apparently is ongoing.

"The safety of the children under our care is our most important responsibility," said Col. Fern Sumpter, the Fort Myer commander. "The quality of their care and safety has been and will continue to be our most important priority."

Sumpter said that "out of an abundance of caution," the day care center was closed and the children were moved to a separate day care center at Fort Myer. A Fort Myer spokeswoman, Mary Ann Hodges, said the center was closed on Dec. 13.

Of the two Fort Myer day care workers arrested in September, one faces five counts of assault and the other faces four counts of assault, according to the Army.

Based on the findings at Fort Myer, Army Secretary John McHugh said Tuesday he ordered an Army-wide review of hiring practices and management at every day care center.

"These initial findings are not only troubling, they are unacceptable, and we will make certain that adequate policies and procedures are in place, and that they are strictly followed and fully enforced," McHugh said.

Associated Press writer Lolita C. Baldor contributed to this report.

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