Army Investigating War College Child Care Center After Repeated Incidents of Inappropriate Touching

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January 18, 2024
The main entrance sign to Carlisle Barracks and the U.S. Army War College. Photo by Scott Finger via DVIDS

Editor’s note: This story contains descriptions of potential problematic sexual behavior between children and youth, or PSB-CY. Military.com is using a pseudonym for the parent to protect the identity of the victim.

The Army’s Criminal Investigation Division, or CID, is investigating an incident in which a child was repeatedly touched inappropriately at a day care center in Pennsylvania run by the service, which the parents claim failed to quickly notify them of the incident.

Evelin Weber said that her 4-year-old child was touched at the military day care at Carlisle Barracks — home of the U.S. Army War College. The mother and her lawyer say that her 4-year-old was touched inappropriately multiple times at the Moore Child Development Center. The child has since developed early signs of behavioral health issues, according to Weber.

U.S. Army Garrison Carlisle Barracks said in a statement Wednesday that a caregiver at the child development center reported the incidents to day care leadership, and a Family Advocacy Program clinical case worker, CID and Child Protective Services were immediately notified. Parents of the children involved were informed within 24 hours — on Dec. 7 — of the day care discovering the incidents, the base said.

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The officials “reviewed security footage that showed several seconds-long incidents of apparently mutual, inappropriate behavior between the two preschoolers,” according to the statement. It is unclear how the service determined that the incident was “mutual.”

Army officials declined to provide any documentation, such as incident reports, for Military.com to review. Such reports are standard procedure for day cares to document incidents involving children, and those documents can be easily redacted to protect the identities of the children involved. It is unclear whether those incident reports exist.

Weber said the first known incident of inappropriate touching occurred two days before she was notified — on Dec. 5 — despite the Army’s claim that the notification went out within 24 hours. December medical records reviewed by Military.com showed the child had injuries.

It is also unclear whether other incidents of inappropriate touching occurred earlier. Weber said that her child had potential symptoms of being touched inappropriately in October. She said the symptoms were physical, including bleeding.

Defense Department policy explicitly directs problematic sexual behavior from children to be documented and for parents to be given recommendations for treatment of their child and referrals.

Weber said that she was not notified about the incidents quickly enough.

“They delayed notifying us,” Weber told Military.com in an interview. “They didn’t tell us anything that happened.”

One Army official with direct knowledge of the situation told Military.com that the delayed notification allowed Child Protective Services to open an investigation and start interviewing children before parents were notified to look for symptoms of abuse at home as a precaution. It said that abuse at home is not suspected.

The base command began informing all parents with children who attend the child development center of the incident Dec. 11, according to the statement Wednesday. A subsequent review of the facility also recommended more staff training, maintaining proper supervision ratios of staff and children, and reinforcing appropriate classroom routines and boundaries.

Furniture in the classroom blocked the view of security cameras, potentially preventing the scope or frequency of the assaults to be fully reported, according to the Army. The classroom has since been rearranged to remove major camera blind spots.

Army officials could not clearly answer questions from Military.com on how many incidents occurred or how those incidents continued to occur with day care staff in the room. No staff at the facility had been terminated as of Wednesday.

The Army did not say what, specifically, CID is investigating. Brian Fickel, spokesperson for the service, told Military.com that no adults are suspected of being involved. However, no official documentation of the incident was made public or shared with the mother, as is typically done in day care incidents, and the investigation is only in its early stages.

Army policy dictates that child care centers notify parents immediately of unusual occurrences or medical emergencies. All injuries, even minor ones, are to be reported to parents the day of the occurrence. Sexual behavior between children is not explicitly mentioned in the regulation.

Army Secretary Christine Wormuth in 2021 ordered the service to beef up protections and reporting requirements in cases of problematic sexual behavior between children and youth. It is unclear whether those new policies have been fully implemented and communicated across the service. The Army did not respond to a request for comment on that.

Such incidents at military child care centers are not a new phenomenon, nor are they isolated to the Army.

In November 2022, Military.com reported that a Navy child care center at Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, California, was forced to reckon with a host of rule violations — including its “touch policy” — after a victim’s parent reached out.

That parent told Military.com that it took the Navy more than a month and a half to discover footage that they described as leaving their child “physically, emotionally, and mentally harmed.”

However, the center’s problems went back at least a few months, and the Navy also failed to inform its community of parents of an earlier issue with an employee that August. That month, a staff member at the center resigned after being accused of child abuse.

The Navy base at the time said the incident kicked off an investigation with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, and later a leadership change in October 2022 prompted a “review of all policies, procedures and their implementation” that temporarily shuttered the center for three days.

However, the Navy never mentioned in letters to parents what prompted that temporary closure.

After the center reopened, several teachers were missing and the base commander told parents in a letter that the Navy had “extended 11 tentative offers to fill 14 vacant positions.”

Suspected incidents of child abuse or neglect should be reported by calling 911, the nearest Family Advocacy Program office, or the DoD Child Abuse Report Line at 877-790-1197, or 571-372-5348 OCONUS.

Related: Multiple Instances of Alleged Abuse at Navy Child Care Center

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