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Boys slip out of day care

taken to police station

August 06, 2002|by DAN KULIN /Staff Writer

dank@herald-mail.com

Two 6-year-old boys walked out of their day-care program at Eastern Elementary School on Friday morning and were picked up by a stranger as they made their way down Dual Highway in Hagerstown.

William Foster picked up the boys near the intersection of Colonial Drive and Dual Highway and took them to the Hagerstown City Police station.

City police Lt. Margaret Kline said the boys were picked up about a mile from the school that houses the privately run child-care program. The boys arrived at the police station at about 8:45 a.m., she said.

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"When we got there (at the school) after 9 (a.m.) they said they knew the boys were gone but they had not notified police," Kline said.

Messages left Monday at the School-Age Child Care at Eastern Elementary and at another company office were not returned.

The company is one of several that pay the public school system to use space at the schools for before- and after-school child care, as well as for the summer program.

School-Age Child Care operates before- and after-school child care at at least 12 elementary schools in Washington County, schools Director of Facilities Management Dennis McGee said.

McGee said the company has been operating in the schools for about 10 years. Public school officials will review the Friday incident, he said.

"We have no oversight over the program but we're certainly concerned," schools spokeswoman Carol Mowen said.

The Maryland Department of Human Resources, which oversees the licensing of child-care centers in the state, was investigating the Friday incident, department spokeswoman Elyn Jones said. The department has the power to suspend or revoke a company's license, she said.

Jennifer Eaton, whose son Matthew was one of the boys who left the child-care program, said she wants the state to revoke School-Age Child Care's license.

"I'm just stressed and upset," said Eaton.

"I'm just appalled. Anything could have happened to him," said Sharon Belair, whose son Kevin Giffin was the other boy who left the school on Friday.

Belair and Eaton said they will not send their sons back to School-Age Child Care.

Belair and Eaton said their sons told them they decided to leave child care because they were in trouble for not picking up some toys fast enough.

The two boys went to wash their hands, and instead of returning to their child-care group, they went out the back door, Belair said.

Eaton said her son told her they left the school on Yale Drive about 15 minutes after she dropped him off at 7:30 a.m.

Belair said her son told her they originally wanted to go to a playground.

"But once they got past Pizza Hut they got scared and didn't know their way back to school," Belair said.

The boys walked west on Dual Highway. They stopped in a store to ask for change to make a phone call, but then ran away, she said.

Foster was driving his wife to work at Robinwood Medical Center when he first saw the boys walking down the road.

"I told my wife 'that doesn't look good' and told her to call the police," Foster said.

After dropping off his wife, Foster came upon the boys again.

He saw the boys running down the road, and stopped and asked them why they were running.

The boys told Foster they were lost, so Foster, who had one of his young grandchildren with him in the car, told them to get in his car so he could take them to the police station.

"I'm just glad I was there instead of somebody else," Foster said.

Kline said that after finding out where the boys were supposed to be, they contacted the School-Age Child Care staff at Eastern Elementary.

Kevin was picked up at the police station. Matthew was taken back to the school, where his mother picked him up, Kline said.

"He's in a lot of trouble, and he's grounded," Belair said. "I keep stressing to him about the car too, he just got lucky and he shouldn't do it again."

"We lucked out on this one," Foster said. "Those boys are safe."

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