Last week in Burleigh County, a former daycare provider was found guilty of child abuse.
The woman responsible for the home daycare is Bismarck resident, Marlene Steedsman. Her jury trial ended January 9th.
Court documents say, on the morning of June 1st, a three-year-old boy was taken to Steedsman’s home on North 22nd Street, but he returned home that afternoon with multiple injuries.
KX News had the chance to sit down with the now 4-year-old, Max, and his mother, Lisa, as she shares a story she never thought she’d have to tell.
When Lisa Schauer returned to pick up her son, Max, that afternoon, she noticed injuries on one of his ears.
The child abuse victim’s mother explains, “And I just said, ‘Max, what happened?’ And he said, ‘Marlene break my ears off.’ Immediately I was taken aback, and checked the other one, and noticed the other one was red. When I looked at them closer, I could tell there was bruising forming, there were scratches down the sides of his neck. He also had a big bruise on the forehead.”
Max repeated the same story to multiple family members, at different times.
Schauer adds, “And the doctor said it was obviously a traumatic injury, somebody injured him.”
Max was pulled out of the daycare immediately, and Schauer began warning other parents.
Unfortunately, Max was not the first to be injured under Steedsman’s care. Katrina Hanenberg’s infant daughter suffered at least one traumatic head injury in 2016.
Hanenberg shares, “I found out that she had bleeding in her brain. We were rushed via air medical ambulance to Minneapolis, where I was told she’d be having immediate surgery, and that’s where more of the story started to unfold.”
Hanenberg’s two to four-month-year-old daughter was unable to speak for herself, so they really don’t know when or what exactly happened to her daughter. And with no one to blame, Social Services took Hanenberg’s daughter away.
Hanenberg explains, “They put us through a nightmare of six months being away from my child, and I had to travel to Minot to my sister-in-law’s house; 200 miles every single day to see my daughter.”
But according to court documents, it was Steedsman’s stories that didn’t line up. The daycare provider was only charged with was false information to law enforcement, a class A misdemeanor.
Hanenberg says, “When I saw on the news that she was in trouble again, I immediately thought, ‘Are they reopening my daughter’s case? Did she admit something?’ And then I looked at it, and realized it was another child in that daycare and that they had allowed her to keep doing daycare with those same kids, and none of those parents ever found out what happened.”
Schauer says she’s gone through four daycares since, trying to find someone to trust.
She adds, “It was incredibly draining. We trusted Marlene. We considered her family. She was like a grandmother figure to our kids.”
Steedsman ultimately closed her daycare.
She was charged with child abuse and sentenced to a psychological evaluation for injuring Max.
Schauer told KX News, her Victim Witness Coordinator expects sentencing to happen within six to eight weeks.
In Hanenberg’s case, Steedsman’s probation has been revoked following the jury’s decision in Schauer’s case last week.
Both mothers stress their worry about the credibility of unlicensed daycares. They say these injuries could have been prevented.
If you’re still wondering what to look out for when it comes to putting your child in daycare, we sat down with a Parent Services Manager with Child Care Aware.
It’s an organization that specializes in helping you find the right childcare option for your family.
They recommend finding a licensed daycare provider because they are required to go through a background check and inspection.
Another good way to research a daycare is to check references, meaning reach out to other parents who have put their child through that facility.
You can also call the Social Services office in your county. They do the inspections and will have any record of past infractions.
Child Care Aware Parent Services Manager Kristi Asendorf adds, “Unlicensed care can be quality care. It’s not that just because they’re unlicensed, they’re not quality. But by being licensed, you’re exposing yourself to inspections, background checks; you continuously have to take training to keep your license. So basically you’re making that commitment that this is the field that you’re in.”
Asendorf says for a daycare to go unlicensed, they must be caring for fewer than five kids. But she says cases of illegal care exist in many places because they are not often prosecuted.