KX News has brought you several stories of child abuse happening at unlicensed daycares in the capital city.
Tonight, we to introduce you to the Ballesteros family, whose 2-year-old daughter was injured under the care of someone the family trusted.
The Ballesteros started sending their then, 18-month-old daughter, Adecyn, and their now 3-year-old son, Beau to a daycare, so their mother, Samantha could return to work. That was in February, and by the end of March, Adecyn came home with bruises.
It was an afternoon like any other when Felix Ballesteros went to pick up the kids. He found Adecyn in a dimly lit basement and could see some bruising on her face.
He says the daycare provider told him a toy fell on her.
“It’s only when I took her outside and saw her in the light that I saw that there was quite a bit of bruising on forehead and on the side of her face,” Felix explained.
They took Adecyn to the hospital immediately. The police were called, and a report was filed.
“At the time, the police officer had agreed with us in a roundabout way, that there was no way that a toy could’ve caused Adecyn’s injuries,” Samantha shared.
But it took the police and social services a month to get out to visit the home.
“It was really frustrating. The reason they gave us for it taking so long is because, they were coordinating with Social Services,” Samantha added.
By then, the daycare provider told Social Services, she threw out the toy, and the case was dropped.
The problem is: Social Services has little control over unlicensed daycares. With licensed facilities, they can conduct unannounced visits.
“They don’t have to open the door for us, if it’s an unlicensed facility,” Kim Osadchuk, Director of Burleigh County Social Services said.
“We’re frustrated that there are no checks and balances in North Dakota for unlicensed daycares,” Samantha added.
That being said, the Director of Burleigh County Social Services says any abuse at any daycare should be reported to them to open up an investigation.
“Law enforcement will be involved as well. And so law enforcement will decide to send their records to the State’s Attorney, and they’ll decide if they want to prosecute or not,” Osadchuk explained.
She says anytime her office gets a report of an unlicensed daycare, they send them paperwork and urge them to start the process of getting licensed. But it’s not required in North Dakota.
“They don’t, they don’t have to. They can throw them in the garbage,” Osadchuk emphasized.
Samantha says Adecyn is not an isolated incident. She’s spoken to another mom in the same situation, and that provider is still operating.
If Social Services is involved and able to prove abuse or neglect at any type of daycare, a ‘Services Required’ will be filed, meaning there is a record of abuse on file. This filing would shut down a licensed facility, but they would not have to power to shut down an unlicensed facility.
To clear the air: Adecyn is in great health and gaining her confidence back. Samantha Ballesteros is already working with state lawmakers to require all daycares to be either licensed or self-declared.
We’ve also spoken with a couple of unlicensed providers who say they go by the book, and that there are reasons many providers choose to be unlicensed, and that parents choose to use them. Here are their testimonies:
“This is very unfortunate that Social Services does not treat this type of abuse situation any differently than a licensed facility. This by no means should ever go without being looked into. If a parent ever suspects abuse, I would advise any parent to immediately take their child to the ER or walk-in clinic, file a police report, and then I believe the police report is given to social services.”
The unlicensed provider shared, “My reasons to not continue with my daycare certification are personal.”
“I currently still carry CPR/First Aid, I’m a CNA, my background checks and fingerprinting are current…I follow all safety codes: having a fire extinguisher, first aid kit, fenced yard, outlet plugs in place, emergency evacuations in place,” they added.
The unlicensed providers say the licensing process is getting more difficult, deterring them from the process.
However, they recommend doing your research before choosing any provider.
They shared, “No parent should have to worry all day about their child, they should be at a daycare they can trust and know their child is being well taken care of. Parents need to do their own research when looking for a provider. Ask questions, ask for references, ask to do a background check. Most importantly, follow your gut.”