Every parent hopes their childcare facility will provide a caring, loving and safe environment. But it doesn't always happen.
Through open records requests, KCTV5 obtained nine months of substantiated complaints from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS), the agency that oversees the metro's 700-plus licensed daycares.
The 77 problem files included an Independence home daycare where investigators spotted a "hack saw...on the kitchen table within reach of the children." The state instructed the owner, Cathy Bullard, to move the saw to a location the children could not access and stay open. Bullard told KCTV5 that since kids always pass through the kitchen with supervision, they were never in any danger.
At The Children's Place, 2 East 59th St. in Kansas City, records show a "four-year-old child was accidentally left on the facility van for approximately five hours" and that "no one realized the child was unaccounted for." Once discovered, the child was taken to the emergency room at Children's Mercy Hospital. The center said it was extremely upset and fired those involved and changed policies.
Staff at Bright Futures Early Childhood Development Center in Higginsville, MO, took their young charges on an outing to the park. State records show a "three-year-old was left at the park." A family friend, not connected to the daycare, discovered the child. The little girl told investigators that the bus went "bye bye."
The state suspended the center's license but, after reopening, it had to report another missing kid. This time, a "four-year-old child was found outside." Investigators said the "staff was unaware the child had left the facility." The center has since closed its doors.
Two little ones keep full-time student and Merriam, KS, mother Abigail Valdez busy. She found the hunt for suitable childcare to be quite stressful.
"As a mom, it's scary." Valdez said. "I don't want to leave my kids you know anywhere."
It took visits to seven different places before she found the right place for her boys.
"Make sure you ask them questions and don't be afraid to," Valdez said.
More than a year ago, Missouri's DHSS launched a website where parents can research child care facilities. But some of the most crucial information, the detailed substantiated complaints obtained by KCTV5, are not posted. A department spokesman says getting those requires a formal records request.
Katrina Ball works for Child Care Aware of Eastern Kansas and Western Missouri, an organization that helps parents find quality daycare in the metro. She understands why parents often start their search with recommendations, but cautions that should only be a first step.
"You're going to value your friends' opinion, but you need to get the facts, and the information you need. And trust your instincts," Ball said.
One of the best ways to do that, is the kind of in-person visits Valdez made.
"You want to see their interactions with the children," Ball said.
There is a big difference between daycares on each side of the state line. Missouri does not require that all child care sites be licensed. Kansas does require a license for all day care facilities.
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