Site of viral daycare video has become new child care center; exempt from licensing

FOX Files
Data pix.

ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. – You may remember the daycare Fox 2 exposed with a video showing a worker throwing a child across the room. Regulators shut down the child care center after they saw the tape.

Fox 2 recently found a new center opened at the same location.

State inspectors, in charge of monitoring child care centers, don’t know much about the new center because it’s operated by a church. Missouri law exempts church-operated facilities from child safety inspections.

Fox 2 wanted to find out what’s changed since our coverage led to the state shutting down the old facility.

The center used to be called Brighter Day Care and Learning Center. On February 26, 2019, Fox 2 exposed a video of a worker throwing a child across a room.

On March 1, officers with the North County Police Cooperative arrested Wilma Brown. She was charged with child abuse. A second employee, Ariana Silver, was arrested and charged in a different incident also caught on video.

Both women remain under charges and were terminated by the center.

On March 4, Governor Mike Parson said the state would shut down Brighter Day.

Brighter Day Care attorney Tim Smith said the center would appeal.

A state hearing was set for October 25, 2019, but “Brighter Day (then) rescinded their appeal and accepted the revocation of their license,” according to the state.

Fox 2 followed up to see if the center was, in fact, closed. Instead, we saw a new sign-in November. We spoke to three people inside who had no comment about whether anything was different other than the sign.

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, which regulates child care, told Fox 2 regulators can no longer seek answers. As a DHSS spokesperson explained, “That facility is (now) owned and operated by New Jerusalem Cathedral Church of God in Christ. Because it is operated by a religious organization, the new facility is license-exempt. By statute, DHSS cannot interfere...”

Fox 2 went to get answers from the church. The latest business registration records from the Missouri Secretary of State’s Office show the church located at 2047 East Grand. It appears abandoned. There are no door handles on the doors. We checked all of them. There’s no way to get in or ask anybody anything. Other doors and windows are boarded up. A neighbor told us the church hasn’t been active in years.

On the Secretary of State paperwork filed for the church, a “Thomas L. Williams” signed as an authorized party. That same name appears on paperwork for the revoked center Brighter Day. We then went to an address for Williams listed on state business records. No one answered.

We did get an answer from attorney Timothy Smith, who we found listed as both the attorney for the revoked Brighter Day Care and the attorney for New Jerusalem Church. Smith wrote, in part, “New Day Early Learning Center and Brighter Day Preschool are two separate and distinct entities. New Day Early Learning Center is in compliance with the laws and regulations of the state of Missouri. All teachers and staff are well trained and extremely qualified. Faculty and staff are employed only after successfully completing a very thorough selection process...”

Smith did not answer whether we could interview someone at the facility or get a look inside.

Count on the Fox Files to stay on this story.

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