State drops case against Gainesville daycare owner

This week the state dropped its case against a Gainesville daycare owner whom authorities arrested in February for allegedly not reporting child abuse. 

On Feb. 11 the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office (ACSO) announced the arrest of Amanda Foust, 77, the owner of A Child’s Place daycare. An ASCO press release alleged she failed to report an employee’s abuse of a 1-year-old and then altered documents to cover it up. She was booked into the Alachua County Jail on $50,000 bond. 

Now it appears neither of the allegations was accurate. 

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“The standard for an arrest is only probable cause,” John Whitaker, Foust’s attorney, said in a phone interview. “If someone makes an accusation and [authorities] don’t have a reason to immediately say it’s not true…that can be enough for an arrest.” 

Whitaker said the accusation of document tampering was the first to fall apart. An initial report said the employee in question, Sierra Smith, was suspended, but the document was later amended to say she was fired after Foust terminated her. It turns out the daycare director, not Foust, amended the document to make it accurate. 

“Even if she did [make the change], I don’t think that was a crime because it wasn’t material to the alleged abuse,” Whitaker said. “When you say you’re tampering, you’re saying someone is hiding evidence. The evidence in this case is not that report—it’s the video.” 

The surveillance video showing Smith’s alleged abuse of a child has an access log, so authorities were also able to ascertain when it was accessed and determine that Foust did not fail to report the incident. 

“Unfortunately, there was an employee that did something inappropriate, criminal, which is horrific,” Whitaker said. “It’s another thing to say the owner is hiding it and tampering with evidence.”

Whitaker said the effect of the arrest on A Child’s Place has been significant. He said the Early Learning Center ended subsidies for more than 20 children at the daycare due to the allegations and arrest. 

Whitaker said he plans to get the complaint filed with the Department of Children and Families overturned, then try to get the Early Learning Center to reinstate the subsidies for children to come to A Child’s Place. 

Meantime, the future of Foust’s business is uncertain: “Because of this arrest, she doesn’t know if A Child’s Place can continue.”

Below is Whitaker’s full press release recounting the relevant events in this story: 

This week, the State Attorney’s Office in Gainesville filed a “No Information” meaning they will not file criminal charges against Amanda Foust.

Mrs. Foust was taken into custody on February 11, 2021 pursuant to an arrest warrant which alleged she had failed to report child abuse and had tampered with evidence. Mrs. Foust subsequently retained the Avera & Smith firm to represent her.

The evidence plainly demonstrated that Mrs. Foust neither tampered with evidence, nor was aware of any allegations of child abuse until late Sunday evening of the night before the Department of Children and Families arrived at her business to conduct an investigation pursuant to allegations that had been made by an unhappy employee. Upon reviewing video from the previous Friday, Mrs. Foust terminated the accused employee for improper conduct.

Bond was initially set by a Circuit Judge at $50,000.00 based upon a request from the State Attorney’s office. The State suggested the high bond was necessary to secure the appearance of a 77-year-old mother and grandmother with no criminal history. Mrs. Foust and her husband were residents of Gainesville for nearly 50 years and Mrs. Foust had continuously operated A Child’s Place child care center for more than four decades.

The incident resulting in Mrs. Foust’s arrest initially occurred on Friday, October 2, 2020. At that time, a staff member, who had recently returned from an extended leave, allegedly witnessed an incident of abuse involving a co-worker and a child. Despite a written rule requiring her to immediately report such an incident, the witness only informed other staff members on Friday afternoon that she disapproved of the way her co-employee was interacting with children assigned to her care. The witness did not allege child abuse, nor did she provide any specifics indicating that such had occurred.

Neither the director of A Child’s Place nor Amanda Foust were made aware of the witness’s concerns on Friday afternoon, October 2, 2020. On Sunday night around 10:00 p.m., the witness sent a text to her supervisors advising them that she was quitting her job and making an unclear accusation regarding having reported child abuse the previous Friday.

Upon reading the text, Mrs. Foust immediately directed staff to meet with her the following morning so they could discern what had actually occurred. The next morning, as Mrs. Foust and her staff were reviewing videos of the teacher’s improper interaction with a child, the Department of Children and Families (DCF), which had also been notified of possible abuse, arrived to investigate.

After reviewing the video, Mrs. Foust immediately removed the employee from the classroom and, later that day, terminated her employment. That employee was subsequently arrested and faces charges by the State Attorney’s office based, in part, on video provided by Mrs. Foust.

Although a former employee and a DCF investigator alleged that Mrs. Foust had seen the video of the incident prior to Monday morning and failed to report an act of abuse, the internal logs of the video recorder system proved otherwise.

The allegation that Mrs. Foust had altered an incident report given to the parents of the child victim was dismissed upon affidavit evidence that Mrs. Foust neither authored the letter (it was not in her handwriting) nor made the obvious and immaterial correction written by the facility director.

While Mrs. Foust wishes to express her gratitude to the office of the State Attorney for its decision to dismiss the charges against her, she regrets having suffered both personal embarrassment and financial losses based upon the reporting of her arrest and bond. Mrs. Foust requests the media provide the dismissal of the charges against her with the same level of coverage that it gave to her arrest.

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