I-TEAM: Following several daycare employee arrests, how do you check on your daycare?

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Monday, August 19, 2019
News 12 at 6 O’Clock/NBC at 7

SOURCE: MGN

AUGUSTA, GA (WRDW/WAGT) – We trust them every day for hours at a time, and outrage doesn’t even begin to describe how we feel when we see them mishandling our children.

In just the past four months, five area daycare workers have been charged with cruelty to or abusing children.

We can't always protect our children when they are away, but we can do our best to make sure we're leaving them in a safe environment.

That’s how Amber Wilson discovered a dangerous daycare situation.

Wilson's daughter, Amari, was not abused by a daycare worker, nor was she hurt, but she does believe her daughter's life was at risk.

Wilson knew Amari would have challenges after she came into the world 17 weeks early.

"She is actually allergic to the pollen,” Wilson said. “It will trigger a reaction, which will cause the need for an EpiPen."

Foods like nuts can also cause her to stop breathing. For that reason, Wilson kept her daughter close at home until late last year.

"They assured me she would be in good hands,” Wilson said. She enrolled her daughter at Big Blue Marble in Evans.

"I went in great detail of her medical needs,” Wilson said. "I brought the EpiPen to them even before she started to have it there at the center."

Wilson also gave the daycare a letter from her pediatrician. Months went by before a situation at the daycare caused her concern.

"I got curious, so I said, ‘Let me take a look at their state violations or inspections,’ and see if there was anything there,” Wilson said.

Wilson logged onto Georgia Bright from the state's website. The agency regulates and inspects licensed daycares in Georgia.

[EXTRA: Check the Georgia Bright daycare inspection reports.

[EXTRA: Check the South Carolina daycare inspection reports.]

"That's when I started to find some things that were very alarming to me,” Wilson said.

The words on the inspection report jolted her.

"The provider does not currently dispense or administer medication,” the report said.

But the daycare did have medication. Her own daughter's. If the state didn't know about the EpiPen, then who at the daycare might not know about it either?

A spokesperson told us staff knew about Amari's condition, the EpiPen, and that they even took it with them on a field trip, but that's not what a teacher told the mother over the phone. The conversation was recorded.

“She had been harassing me the whole day to write the statement,” one teacher said. “I told her I wasn't comfortable, so in my statement I wrote I was unaware of any EpiPen made aware made available to her during the field trip. So Susan was pissed off at me writing that statement."

Not only does the teacher say she didn't know about the EpiPen, but she also says daycare director Susan Pittman instructed her to lie to a state inspector.

“She made me write a statement saying I knew there was an EpiPen on that field trip for her,” the teacher said. “I told her I knew about the EpiPen because I was just informed before he came in there. Maybe I should have told him I was just informed having the EpiPen.”

"This isn't just some kid falling, needing a Band-Aid on their knee,” Wilson said. “This is something that could have been a life or death situation."

A state investigation found staff did lie to them. An inspector also determined Blue Marble did fail to inform them about the EpiPens during a prior inspection.

"I felt I jeopardized my child's safety,” Wilson said. “I put her health at risk because I trusted someone else to take care of her and they failed her.”

But Wilson did trust her own gut to do her own investigation into her child’s daycare.

“I couldn’t leave her out there,” Wilson said.

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