The Department of Defense is looking into the personnel and hiring practices at military facility-based child-care centers around the world after questions surfaced about the suitability of some employees at a center at Fort Myer in Arlington, officials said.
The investigation was ordered in connection with the arrest of two employees who worked at the Child Development Center at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, which services children of personnel who work at the Pentagon and other Washington-area military facilities. The two employees, who were arrested Sept. 26, are accused of assaulting two 2-year-olds. The alleged abuse was initially reported by a suspecting parent. The two employees appeared in federal court in Alexandria last month on assault charges, officials said.
The investigation into that case disclosed that as many as 31 employees at the facility may have backgrounds that make them unsuitable to work with children, including drug use and prior allegations that they abused children, officials said. As a result, the employees were suspended and Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta ordered that hiring practices and personnel backgrounds be checked at military day-care facilities around the world.
"Military children are precious members of our Defense Department family," Panetta said in a statement. "As a department, protecting our service members and their families is paramount. 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.”
Army officials replaced the Fort Myer facility’s managers in October, a few weeks after the arrests. The center was temporarily closed and the children were relocated to another Fort Myer center.
The Fort Myer Child Development Center, one of many on foreign and domestic military installations charged with caring for children of military personnel, is the largest among those operated by the Department of Defense. The center measures about 51,000 square-feet and was conceived as an ideal learning and enrichment facility for children. It provides care for more than 400 children aged from six weeks to 12.
"The safety of the children under our care is our most important responsibility," said Col. Fern Sumpter, Fort Myer’s commander. "The quality of their care and safety has been and will continue to be our most important priority."
The Washington Post reported that the assaults on the two young children were captured on surveillance cameras.