Possible child abuse at Richland child care

KEPR is looking into a Richland daycare that was closed by the state. The Department of Early Learning says it's the first step into an investigation of abuse allegations. The daycare owner told KEPR the DEL wasn't upfront about why the license was being revoked and denies any allegations.

It came as a shock for Debbie Stacey. A visit from the state to her child care center on Thayer Drive.
She was told Aunt Bee's Honeycomb Childcare didn't meet basic license requirements, and had to be shut down immediately.

"Call all the parents and send the children home," said center owner Debbie Stacey.

Debbie posted this sign on the door for parents Friday morning. When she created the sign she had never heard the word "abuse" suggested by the state. But the Department of Early Learning told me they were taking first steps to investigate allegations of abuse and neglect.

Reporter: "What did you think when I told you that?
"I was appalled. I was wondering if it was a joke," said Stacey.

The state says this is very real. It's doing what's called a screening of an investigation. It's not even a full-investigation. But it left dozens of parents like "Amy" to scramble for last-minute child care. She didn't want to show her face to protect her privacy. But Amy says she is frustrated and surprised. She believes her son is safe at Aunt Bee's.

"He never comes back from there with any kind of scrape, bump, nothing," said parent "Amy."

We reviewed the 13 page document given by the DEL to the child center. It denies Aunt Bee's opportunity to apply for a full child care license. Outlining a history of sanitation and care issues. It cites one instance where a toddler was allowed to cry for an hour without comfort. It concludes the Richland center can't maintain a safe and healthy environment for children.

Debbie plans to appeal.

"Our center has never had a child go missing, had a child be seriously injured, had a child be molested," added Stacey.

Regardless of her denials, right now the state says kids are not allowed at Aunt Bee's.

Debbie tells KEPR she believes disgruntled employees are behind the complaints. KEPR also learned one other Tri-City child care license has been suspended as of this year. One other location voluntarily closed after a licensing action.