TARGET 8: Substantiated claims against daycares tough to access
COLUMBIA - Two Bright Start Academy locations in mid-Missouri have a number of substantiated complaints from the years 2012 to 2015 that are not accessible on Department of Health and Senior Service's website. Inspection reports appeared to be posted on the website, but public documents KOMU 8 News found in physical files at Columbia's DHSS were not posted on its website, when the public information officer said they should be.
"I think they've already started to be placed online," Ryan Hobart said. "I would need to double check that. But yes, that is something someone could look up online where, traditionally, you would have to call and talk to somebody on our staff to get a copy."
But parents who wanted to look into Bright Start Academy's full history would still have to go into DHSS' office to see allegations, investigations and findings against the daycares on Bearfield Dr. and Rainbow Trout Dr.
KOMU 8 News found a number of complaints were substantiated or confirmed by the state at both locations. Those included two instances of employees hitting kids during diaper changes, leaving a 2-year-old alone in a classroom for 16 minutes, not transporting a 4-year-old in a booster seat when they were in a van, not changing a child's diaper from 8 a.m. to about 4 p.m., and giving a child the wrong breast milk because of improperly labeled bottles.
Columbia's Bright Start Academy Area Director Elley Freeman said Bright Start Academy has a different team now in place.
"The staff that were here and responsible for that are no longer employed. I can't comment effectively because I wasn't here at the time that that happened. But those things that occurred were a huge wakeup call for Bright Start, and so they replaced the entire management team at this facility, and that is me and Ms. Christi."
Both daycares also received letters of censure from the state. Neither was visible online.
"The staff that were responsible for those incidents are no longer employed here but are employed elsewhere in Columbia caring for children," Freeman said. "And that's concerning."
Both Columbia facilities also received letters of censure, which are unaccessible online.
"If they're wanting to find information about any facility, they should come to our website, look at that, look at the history of their inspections and going forward, whatever complaints might be made about them, substantiated complaints they can look at that too and look at it and make their own educated decision about what's best for their children and their child care options," Hobart said.
But if parents are staying at their keyboards and looking at the state's "Show Me Child Care" portal, the only thing they could find at the time of this investigation are inspection reports. Contradictory to what KOMU 8 News found in physical files, neither daycare location showed up on the website as having substantiated complaints.
Since KOMU 8 News started this investigation, the owner of Bright Start Academy said the state has reopened two investigations. KOMU 8 was unable to confirm with DHSS at the time of the story.
On Christmas Eve in 2012, a Bright Start Academy location in O'Fallon left a toddler on a playground in below freezing temperatures for four hours, according to court documents. The state temporarily shut down that location.