Defense looks into hiring practices at child care centers

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Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has called on all the military services to follow in the Army’s footsteps and investigate hiring procedures at child care centers, the department announced Tuesday. The move follows reports of assaults on young children by employees at a facility in Virginia.  

In a statement, press secretary George Little said the Army had launched its probe after “identifying problems with security background investigations” with employees working at the Fort Myer, Va., child development center. 

In October, Washington area television station WJLA reported instances of assaults by facility members on children as young as 2 years old. Some of the assaults involved children being pulled across a floor by their legs, dropped on their stomachs and hit in the face. Three child care workers now face federal misdemeanor charges.

“As a department, protecting our service members and their families is paramount,” Panetta said in a statement. “That includes doing everything we can to provide for the safety of children attending CDCs throughout the department, and ensuring they are provided with the highest quality care by dedicated professionals.”

Foreign Policy magazine reported that 30 employees at the CDC at Fort Myer were suspended following background checks that the Army conducted after an investigation. In a separate statement released Tuesday, Col. Fern Sumpter, garrison commander at Fort Myer, said, “out of an abundance of caution” the facility had been closed and employees reassigned.

“The safety of the children under our care is our most important responsibility,” Sumpter said in a statement. “The quality of their care and safety has been and will continue to be our most important priority.”

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