On Jan. 12, detectives in Montgomery County received a video depicting a 65-year-old day-care operator interacting with a 2-year-old girl. By the end of the day, the operator, Christina Dhanaraj, was under arrest and charged with second-degree child abuse, officials said Tuesday.
In arrest records, detectives described what they saw.
“The video starts with the victim sitting quietly in a room inside a residence,” they wrote, relating then that the suspect walked up and scolded the child. “Dhanaraj then proceeds to deliver approximately eight open-hand slaps to the victim’s face. While she was being repeatedly and violently slapped, the victim was loudly crying.”
Dhanaraj, who is free on bond, could not be reached for comment Tuesday. Her attorney, Patrick Hanifin, declined to discuss the specific police allegations. “Our team is still investigating the matter in its entirety,” Hanifin said. “Ms. Dhanaraj has the full support of her husband and two adult children.”
Dhanaraj has been operating the day-care facility out of her Silver Spring home for about 10 years and was licensed to have up to eight children there, according to county and state records.
Police said they are not identifying the person who shot the video, which may have been taken in November or December, because the person is a witness.
Detectives spoke with the girl’s parents after receiving the video. “There were no apparent injuries that the parents remembered seeing,” said Sgt. Rebecca Innocenti, a county police spokeswoman.
In the video, according to arrest records, Dhanaraj also can be seen shoving the victim to the floor while she was still crying, grabbing her by the head and jerking her body.
Officials at the Maryland Office of Child Care (OCC), who were shown the video by police, issued an emergency suspension of the facility. In a letter to Dhanaraj, an OCC official wrote that “you seemed to be upset that the child soiled her diaper” and yelled at the child for doing so.
The Office of Child Care had no history of complaints or reported problems with the day care before this case, according to regulators.
On Aug. 23, 2006, Dhanaraj was issued an “initial family child care registration certificate to operate” out of the Winding Waye Lane home. Of the capacity for eight children, she was authorized to have two under the age of 2. Eventually, the operation was permitted to accommodate four under the age of 2.
In their suspension letter to Dhanaraj, regulators reviewed her licensing history and listed several recent problems.
On Jan. 12, according to the letter, two day-care licensing specialists went to Dhanaraj’s home with Montgomery detectives. They noted 14 compliance issues, including a lack of attendance records before January, missing barriers on several stairs, and cleaning agents and kitchen knives in drawers and cabinets children could reach.
The letter also cited the video and Dhanaraj’s arrest.
“You must close your family child care home immediately,” the letter stated.
Dana Hedgpeth contributed to this report.