“I had no idea what to do — I was stunned,” Merchen, 30, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “I called the director and she drove over and said, ‘I put Avery down for a nap at 5:15 p.m. — the person watching him must have gone home sick.'”
After landing a new job in August, the single mother of three enrolled Avery in the center five days a week, from 6:30 a.m. to 5:45 p.m.
Merchen was not satisfied with the center’s explanations for the error. “I was later told an employee who usually doesn’t work in the baby room must have forgotten him,” she says. “Then it was ‘miscommunication,’ because the staff thought all the kids had gone home for the night.”
Owner Kim Redding, who did not respond to Yahoo Lifestyle’s request for comment, told a local news station, KULR, that the staff believed the center was empty. “Miscommunication,” she said. “It was a horrible mistake and we’re sorry and we have a damage control method for staff to check out the sign-out sheets and be careful.”
Merchen says that the director contacted her Friday evening and promised to establish tighter safety rules, however, in light of its previous violations, she wants the center to close indefinitely.
KULR uncovered reports from the state’s Department of Public Health and Human Services that showed multiple safety breaches: In April 2014, Kids R Us was cited after only three of 18 children were found to have signed in; on another occasion, 18 children were found under the care of one “unapproved” adult. And in June 2017, eight kids were being watched by one adult, despite licensing rules that require at least two adults when six or more children are present.
According to KTVQ, other reports showed that children at Kids R Us were sometimes left unattended, caregivers were not trained to work with their special-needs children, medications were left in dangerous places, and “humiliation, shaming, and fright” were used to discipline a 6-year-old child.
On Saturday, Merchen filed a report with the Billings Police Department. A representative of the police department tells Yahoo Lifestyle that the case was turned over to Child Protective Services.
Merchen, who works six days a week, has since lost $600 in wages while she scrambles for child care. However, on Tuesday, she toured a new daycare facility and plans to enroll Avery. She tells Yahoo Lifestyle, “I want everyone to know about Kids R Us, so this doesn’t happen to anyone else’s child.”
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Celebrity Babies of 2018
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