9 Investigates

9 Investigates: DCF day care exemptions in Florida

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — 9 Investigates continues to dig into the background checks performed by the Florida Department of Children and Families on day care workers, following the death of 3-year-old Myles Hill.

Investigative reporter Karla Ray discovered the owner of Little Miracles Academy, where Myles died after being left inside a hot van, was convicted of trafficking cocaine in the 1990s.

Audrey Thornton was granted a special exemption from the Department of Children and Families in order to open the day care center in 2010.

According to a list 9 Investigates obtained via a public records request, 184 people working in day care centers right now have similar exemptions. That group represents people whose exemptions have been approved just within the last five years, and the total number is much higher.

Under the law, DCF doesn’t have to tell parents why those exemptions were needed. Sixteen of those exemption-holders who were approved since 2012 are in Central Florida.

One person works at True Deliverance day care off Ivey Lane in Orlando. 9 Investigates found records that show a person with the same name and date of birth as the exemption-holder was accused of selling cocaine and dealing in stolen property in the 1980s, but adjudication was withheld.

Another exemption-holder works at Brian’s Technology Daycare in Leesburg. 9 Investigates spoke to the manager off-camera about the employee, who pleaded no contest to domestic violence battery in 1995. The manager told 9 Investigates she runs her center “by the book,” but did not want to comment on camera for the story.

At six different local “at-home” day cares, 9 Investigates found employees accused of burglaries, DUIs and batteries.

A spokesperson for DCF told 9 Investigates that from fiscal year 2011/2012 to fiscal year 2014/2015, around 3,200 people requested exemptions, but only about 1,000 were granted; not all of those are day care workers.


The Department of Children and Families told 9 Investigates that "human error" is to blame for a mistake on paperwork that was provided to 9 Investigates for this story.

9 Investigates originally reported that a woman, whose name and date of birth match that of a convicted kidnapper, works at a day care named Bright Futures Academy Inc. in Wildwood. DCF said they provided 9 Investigates inaccurate information about where that employee works.

DCF told 9 Investigates that they are reaching out to the day care that was misidentified. 

Below are the local day care facilities with exemption-holders who were approved since 2012.

Orange County: 
True Deliverance Center Day Care
I am Christian Daycare
Brighter Futures Academy II Inc.
Margie's Non‐Stop Kiddie Kare Inc.
Beaudin Family Day Care Home
Sweeting Family Day Care Home
Kiddie U
Heaven's Precious Jewels Christian Childcare Center
Life's Little Treasures

Lake County:
Brian's Technology Daycare LLC

Volusia County: 
DTA Academy Inc.
Holden Rise Up Learning Center

Brevard County:
Carty Family Day Care Home

Seminole County:
Kid E Nation vvInc.
Randall Family Day Care Home
4C Head Start‐North Street
Bright Futures Early Learning Academy Inc.

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Karla Ray

Karla Ray, WFTV.com

Karla Ray anchors Eyewitness News This Morning on Saturday and Sundays, and is an investigative reporter for the 9 Investigates unit.