DHS shuts down Lawton daycare

A Lawton home daycare center was forced to close its doors after the Department of Human Services said there were too many kids being looked after in the home.  The agency said the operators didn't have nearly enough staff to care for so many children.

It was based out of Bernice Tyms' West Lawton home in the 2600 block of Debracey and DHS reported 29 children at the location.  A week later the number dropped to 12, which is the legal amount.  But, DHS says that even then, there weren't enough workers to take care of all the kids.  It sounds negligent, if not downright dangerous, but the owner says there's a reason for what she did.

Tyms said a parent who was upset with her prompted this investigation by filing a complaint with DHS.  She admits that she shouldn't have had so many children at her house, but said she did it because she cares about the kids and their parents.  She told 7News that she's been a licensed child care giver for about four years and most of that time period she's run her operation at home.

Earlier this year, Tyms expanded her services by opening a childcare center in West Lawton and said everything was going well until the building went up for sale.  It was then that she decided to move her business back to her home; by then her clientele had multiplied.  "A lot of the parents didn't have child care," she said.  "So I made the conscious decision to let the kids stay with me until they found child care for the school year or until school started."

Tyms said her only other option was to turn the kids away.  She didn't, even though she knew it was against DHS rules.  "I never denied that I did anything wrong or I was doing right," Tyms said.  "I always comply with the ladies from DHS and I fixed the problem."

She has lowered the amount of children she cares for to 12, and she still had two assistants to help her take care of them.  This week, DHS showed up again.  "I was understaffed because one of the ladies had to go to the store to get milk because we were out of milk and I wasn't here," she said.  DHS says Tyms was required to be at home because she's the licensed caregiver.  And, after the re-inspection, DHS issued an emergency order to close Tyms' facility.

The closing of the daycare broke her heart and put her customers and employees in a bind.  "I don't fault her, because I called around most of the places for the age group of my child is completely booked or full," said Sharita Watson, who is both customer and co-worker to Tyms.

Tyms has an opportunity to appeal the DHS decision and she said that she plans to.  "I have an excellent place.  I've never been in trouble with DHS until now," she said.  "The parents I do have, they don't want to take their children nowhere else.  They don't feel safe anywhere else.  They feel safe with their children here."  More than anything, she wants to repair her reputation.