State looking into whether Portsmouth daycare was operating legally

Seven children taken to hospital after Portsmouth townhome fire
Posted at 4:52 PM, Apr 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-16 10:27:31-04

PORTSMOUTH, Va. - The Dept. of Education's Office of Child Care Health Safety is working with local authorities to determine whether or not Indoor/Outdoor Reach, LLC was operating legally, a department spokesperson tells News 3.

A fire at the daycare Wednesday sent seven children to the hospital. At last check, two were in critical condition.

The City of Portsmouth told News 3 the daycare was licensed to operate with five or fewer children.

If a family day home does operate as a daycare and has fewer than five children, it does not need a state license, according to the Dept. of Education. If the daycare has between five and 12 children, not including the provider's own children, it is required to have a license.

Indoor/Outdoor Reach, LLC did not have a state license, according to the Dept. of Education.

Fire officials told News 3 nine children were inside the home when the fire started, leading to questions over whether there were too many children at the daycare. No adults were in the home at the time of the fire.

The State Corporation Commission lists a woman named Dewanna Seward as the registered agent of the daycare. News 3 attempted to reach Seward multiple times Friday, but did not get a response.

Seward also has another business registered at the address of the daycare, called Lil Angel's Styles, LLC.

While the investigation plays out, News 3 talked with the Virginia Child Care Association about the rules and regulations daycares operate under. The Virginia Dept. of Education began overseeing them in 2021.

"The impetus for this change was really for it to be more of an education focus rather than compliant based focus," said Kim Hulcher, the group's executive director.

When selecting a daycare for children, Hulcher recommends parents visit a daycare and talk with the staff, whether parents are looking at a child daycare center or a family home.

"You really don't know until you have conversations with the people in these programs and having a visit yourself - that's really how you're going to make a determination," Hulcher said.