Judge upholds state's decision to suspend Chattanooga migrant shelter's license

Staff photo by Troy Stolt / The Old Tennessee Temple University dorm building in Highland Park is seen on Monday, April 12, 2021, in Chattanooga, Tenn.

A Tennessee administrative law judge upheld the state's decision to suspend the child care license of the Baptiste Group, which was operating a shelter in Chattanooga for unaccompanied migrant children.

In his decision, Phillip Hilliard wrote the safety and welfare of children required immediate action and the Baptiste Group failed to show it had eliminated the potential for other safety issues. The judge pointed out the recent allegations of child abuse at the shelter.

"The egregiousness of this type of conduct is irrefutable," Hilliard said. "While all children are vulnerable, the unique circumstances under which unaccompanied minors find themselves (in a foreign country under the care of people they've never met) certainly makes them an especially vulnerable population."

The Tennessee Department of Children's Services suspended the Baptiste Group's child care license on July 1 because of the allegation of abuse and a child that went missing from the facility. The Baptiste Group appealed the decision in a July 6 hearing, which the state declined to make public despite a request to do so from the Baptiste Group.

Contact Wyatt Massey at wmassey@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6249. Follow him on Twitter @news4mass.