COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV/Gray News) - Police say they executed a welfare check at a Colorado daycare that led them to the owner’s nearby house, where they found a “false wall” and 26 children under the age of 3 in the basement, KKTV reports.
Authorities conducted the welfare check Wednesday at Play Mountain Place in Colorado Springs, Colo. They had received multiple complaints that the facility was housing more children in their care than their license permitted.
When officers arrived at the daycare facility, there were no children inside.
Officers tried to contact the owner, identified as 58-year-old Carla Faith, at her residence, which is on the same property as the daycare facility. Faith refused to cooperate, they say.
“However, officers could hear the noises of children coming from her home,” wrote Lt. James Sokolik with the Colorado Springs Police Department in a release. “During their investigation, officers found a false wall that led to the home’s basement. When officers walked down the stairs, they located two adults and 26 kids inside a finished basement, all of who were under the age of 3 years old."
Police report detectives plan to pursue “appropriate” charges.
Three adult workers at the daycare were originally arrested for misdemeanor child abuse relating to neglect, but those charges were canceled pending more investigation. Faith was not among those arrested.
One mother, who wanted to remain anonymous, described the moment she walked into the basement of Faith’s home to pick up her child.
“[I] would never have believed the state of things if I had not seen it with my own eyes,” she wrote. “Prior to yesterday, my experience had always been dropping off and picking up my child in a clean, pristine and loving environment. Yesterday, I picked my child up from a small, dingy room in a basement that I had never before seen, where 26 children were crowded together amidst empty juice box containers, graham cracker crumbs and various children’s blankets and lovies. The room smelled of unchanged diapers."
The mother says she hopes this was a one-time situation, but she has reason to believe it wasn’t.
“In the corner of the basement, there were cubbies with children’s names on them, holding diapers, including my own child’s, leading me to believe this is a place they had regularly spent time," she wrote. “This was nothing at all like the level of care I had been led to believe my child was receiving, and the amount of deceit that took place to convince parents otherwise is completely mind-blowing. To say I am shocked, overwhelmed and feeling utterly betrayed is an understatement.”
Officers with the Crimes Against Children Unit have taken over the criminal part of the investigation. They are working alongside the Colorado Department of Human Services, which is handling licensing matters.
The facility’s licensing status is being suspended, and according to a DHS spokesperson, a legal team suppressed all records for the daycare off their website.
Multiple parents, several of whom heard the news through friends, now have to search for a new caretaker.
“I just have this horrible feeling in my stomach, in the pit of my stomach,” one parent said. “I’m really hoping nothing more nefarious has been going on and that, in fact, it is an overcrowding issue, which is bad enough as it is. I wouldn’t have brought him there knowing that.”
Others are hoping the licensing issue is a quick fix for the owner.
“Excellent facility,” one mother said. “But I’m not sure what’s going on right now. Hopefully, they can just get it fixed, so we can get our kids started over again.”