Fox Files Investigates: Daycare Dangers

FOX Files
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  • * Map Of Daycare Centers 
    * List Of mo Daycares With Violations Or Substantiated Complaints Since January 2011
    * MO and IL reports involving Child Care Centers
    * Search Illinois Inspection Results For Licensed Daycares

    Find a daycare through Child Care Aware, a parent resource and online referral service.

    ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI)– We found Daycare Dangers is a problem without boundaries.  It’s not only in the City, but also in the suburbs.  It’s in private homes and big fancy centers.

    In one example, we found video of an assault inside Mary Margaret Daycare and Learning Center in South City.  It shows the aftermath of a childcare worker who called her brother to settle a score with another worker.  The assault played out right in front of the kids.  You can see a man slam a daycare worker to the floor and grab a chair to smash her with it.  Kids appear to to watch everything, yet they’re virtually ignored until the melee ends.  The daycare director and another worker later whisk them away.

    That January, 2012 at Mary Margaret on 4040 S Broadway.  It was one of 10 violations Missouri investigators documented since 2011, including two different teachers who ‘got into it’ in front of the kids.  Inspection reports describe one teacher performing a mock exorcism yelling to ‘get the demons out’ of a teacher she didn`t like.

    (Reporter confrontation) My name’s Chris Hayes with Fox 2.  I want to talk with you about your inspection reports.
    (Director) What inspection reports?
    (Hayes) Somebody who reads these might think this is a violent and hostile place.
    (Director) (pause) I don’t know what you’re talking about. You’re getting your information from the wrong side of the street.
    (Hayes) From the State of Missouri licensing. (Director) And I’m asking you to please leave my property.

    Mother Jen Ladlie sensed something was wrong with an Overland daycare, but she never imagined what we showed her in the inspection reports.

    After reading the reports, Ladlie said, “I woudln’t be giving this interview right now if that had happened to my child.  It would be from behind bars.”

    Licensing records reveal Bright Start Academy on 9636 Midland racked up 31 violations last year.  Investigators noted a teacher ‘hitting’ — and a ‘shaking’ incident so frightening, another caregiver described a child ‘screaming for her life.’  Inspectors also noted teachers calling kids ‘retards’ and ‘drug babies.’  Plus, we read an unusual punishment for biting — ‘hot sauce’ in the mouth.

    (Hayes told Ladlie) “One of the kids was as young as 17 months old
    (Ladlie responded) Oh my goodness.”

    Ladlie said she pulled her daughter after just a week for a different incident. She’d thought to herself, “Something`s not right here, screaming crying, talking about her back hurt. Her diaper hadn`t been changed the entire time.
    (Hayes) All day?
    (Ladlie) All day. Major diaper rash, all the way about mid up her back and to the point to where it was there for 2 weeks and we finally had to take her to get steroid cream to get rid of it.”

    I asked Bright Start`s director about the dozens of violations.

    (Hayes) “Are you doing anything about it?
    (Director) I have no comment sir
    (Hayes) It just seems like every time inspectors come back there`s something else and then something else and I guess my concern is — is there a pattern here?
    (Director) There is no pattern.  I don`t know where you got your information from
    (Hayes) From the State of Missouri.  Do you want me to get the files and go over them with you?
    (Director) You`re welcome to do whatever you wish sir, but I have no comment.”

    Inspectors cited two other centers for losing track of kids.

    GSL Development Center, 4401 Fair Avenue, is on probation with Missouri licensing after reportedly leaving a two-year-old child in a van from 9 a.m. until about 2:45 p.m.

    During our visit to GSL, employees tried secretly peaking at us through window blinds.  An unidentified woman did not have much to say.

    (Unidentified woman) “You can call my attorney
    (Hayes) Your attorney.
    (Woman) Yep.
    (Hayes) You don`t want to talk about what happened?
    (Woman) I am not going to talk on camera
    (Hayes) You don`t want to explain whether or not it could happen again or what you did about it?
    (Woman) We already took care of that with the State. Stop following me.”

    Then there`s Educare on 6814 natural bridge.  State records show its license revoked, but a sign says ‘Driver Needed, Clean Record,’ The center is open again, because it’s appealing the State’s action.

    According to a February 2012 inspection report, a two-year-old was dropped off at about 9:30 am, then walked freely around an area around Natural Bridge.  A mechanic next door later found him and brought him back to the daycare center.

    A receptionist inside would barely acknowledge me.  She said, I`m not giving out no information to no news people.”  I gave her my card and never heard back.

    Find a daycare through Child Care Aware, a parent resource and online referral service.
    Get help with early childcare at Their motto is “Helping with all aspects of quality child care”.

    Just since last January, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services cited more than 100 daycares in the St. Louis area.  Fox2 sorted through the records and dug into the specific violations.  Each investigative file is unique — and what may be frightening to parents, problems are not always obvious.

    Like an upscale suburban home in St. Charles, recently revoked of its license.  Investigators found ongoing ‘domestic abuse’ including a fight that ‘woke the children’ and the discovery of a ‘handgun’ in a room where kids napped.

    Then we found, a revoked license, doesn`t always mean the daycare shuts down.  Like Rising Star at 2400 chambers — cited for for violations including daycare drivers with `suspended` and `revoked` driver’s licenses.   Rising Star fought ‘revocation’ and currently operates under a `probation agreement.`

    (Reporter confrontation) “Who`s driving these kids and do they have good driver`s licenses?
    (Unidentified woman) Yes they do.

    We spotted a woman pulling up, who inspectors recently cited for driving kids with a suspended license.  She’s manager Jackie Lindsey Smith and she told us she`s taken care of it.  Smith said, “I have accurate license, but I`m not going to go into that with you.  I mean if you`re doing your research you should know what I’m doing.”
    (Hayes) Transporting kids.  If I`m doing my research, I`m seeing that you`re telling the State you`re not transporting kids, but you are.”

    Smith reportedly told inspectors she was not a daycare driver.  Then inspectors reported finding a facebook post – ‘Hey fb, just dropped off my last child for tonight.’

    (Smith told Chris Hayes) “The (State) records are inaccurate.  That`s the reason the facility are up and running.
    (Hayes) So it`s just lie?
    (Smith) I don`t know what they got in there.  I`ve not read it, but after today I will read it.”

    Denial was a common response, like Bright Beginnings on 3135 South Brentwood in Webster Groves.  Inspectors documented ‘5 violations’ last October, noting that a ’10 month old fell out of a high chair’ and it was ‘not reported’ to the parents.  The state substantiated the complaints and reported violations.  The Director vigorously disputed everything. She said disgruntled employees lied.

    (Hayes) “So they just made up a story?
    (Director) Yes and it happens all the time.  You have the luxury to sit at your home and call and make up a story and do anything you want. That`s the problem with just having someone be negative.
    (Hayes) But the State believed it because they substantiated it.
    (Director) No, they did not, because after talking to them further they decided
    (Hayes) So they changed their minds later?
    (Director) Yes
    (Hayes) OK then I can call and ask.
    (Director) Yes absolutely, call and ask before you just jump to..
    (Hayes) Can you show me the letter?
    (Director) I don`t have it, i don`t have it. I can`t leave where I`m going to show you the letter, but I will follow up with you.
    (Hayes) Fax it to me or e-mail it to me.
    (Director) It`s probably public record!
    (Hayes) Oh I`m going to call them, believe me.”

    I did call.  Daycare licensing said inspectors did not change their minds.  A spokesperson for DHSS told me the inspection record stands.

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About the FOX Files

The Fox Files are groundbreaking investigations you won’t see anywhere else. The series is well known for breaking the Pam Hupp story nationally. The reports that led to the exoneration of Russ Faria. But, it is far from the only time in which our investigations led to overturned convictions and freedom for the wrongfully accused. The Fox Files investigations do not fit into just one category, other than the fact our reports shine a light on issues and corruption in ways you won’t see anywhere else.

You won’t know what to expect as our reports often take twists that surprise even Fox Files investigator Chris Hayes.

“You never know where the truth will lead and you have to keep searching for it, even when you think you might be done,” Hayes said.

From getting arrested for trying to cover a public meeting, to getting law enforcement involved in his report about a daycare fight club, the Fox Files has been at the forefront of breaking news investigations in the St. Louis area.

It doesn’t stop just in St. Louis. The Pam Hupp/Russ Faria story took him to Lincoln County. Fox 2 was the first to report, nationally, on the synthetic drug epidemic when it began in St. Charles County, MO. In St. Louis County, our Fox Files reporting led to the dismantling of some police departments, including the departments of Uplands Park and Jennings. And in the City of St. Louis, our investigations led to swift government actions, such as our report that led to the Governor’s ordered shut down of a daycare.

Our reporting in St. Louis also led to former Missouri Governor Eric Greitens’ exclusive Fox Files interviews involving his court fight to oust the chief prosecutor while attempting to prove that political corruption led to an illegal overturning of a state election.

“It’s not always bad news,” Hayes said about a recent victory for a restaurant in his coverage of a St. Clair County Illinois issue. A Fox Files report, exposing a health department’s mistake over the COVID-19 pandemic, led to an overturning of a decision, allowing the business to open for limited inside dining.

Another investigation took us to Madison County, where prosecutors praised Fox 2’s coverage while shutting down an illegal synthetic drug business – and to Monroe County, where we uncovered key evidence in the Chris Coleman murder trial.

Even the national media, continues reaching out to local affiliate Fox 2 KTVI and the Fox Files, for its work on cases that are important to St. Louis. When you see a network television’s coverage of St. Louis, you’ll often see that they gathered information that was first uncovered right here.


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