A Colorado daycare owner has been jailed for six years for hiding 26 neglected children in her basement that was hidden behind a fake wall.
Some of the 26 affected children are still traumatised after being hidden behind a sliding fake wall at a daycare named Mountain Play Place in Colorado Springs.
Twelve of the youngsters were under two years-old, despite Faith being told she could only care for two kids in that age bracket.
According to the Dailymail UK, when the police arrived at the daycare owner, Carla Marie Faith’s place in November 2019, the staircase to the basement was hidden behind a sliding fake wall. She was only licensed to care for six children but had taken on more than four times as many.
The kids, some of whom were sweaty, soiled and thirsty, were being looked after by just two adults, according to an arrest affidavit. A 26th child was picked up by a parent while police were at the daycare.
The daycare has since been closed, along with another one owned by Faith.
She was convicted in July.
On Thursday, Faith was sentenced to six years in prison on 26 counts of misdemeanor child abuse and one count each of attempting to influence a public servant and obstructing a peace officer.
Statements from parents
According to local station KOAA, the lead prosecutor Andrew Herlihy played a 48-minute video for the court featuring statements from parents and professionals.
One parent cried as she described the daycare’s impact on her daughter: ‘She became more aggressive, she was hitting … pulling hair.’
Parent Kim Marshall said that both of her children still receive counseling.
‘We sleep with the lights on in our house,’ she said. ‘My kids are anxious. They are fearful of the world.’
Child psychiatry professor Dr. Steven Berkowitz said that ‘these kinds of experiences that these children had at this daycare can have long term impacts.’
He added that the kids are at high risk for emotional, psychiatric and medical problems.
Faith’s defense attorney, Josh Tolini, objected to Dr. Berkowitz’s assessment, arguing that he wasn’t qualified to comment because he had never met Faith.
Police went to her Mountain Play Place daycare in November 2019 after receiving reports that there were more children than allowed.
When police arrived, Faith repeatedly told an officer that no children were there and that the home didn’t have a basement, but the officer heard children’s music and a child’s cry from the basement, the affidavit said.
Officers found the wall hiding the staircase to the basement when one of them bumped into it, according to court documents.
The wall moved, and the officer noticed ‘two parallel scrape marks on the wooden floor’ that led away from the wall.
The officer moved a plant to reveal a ‘small seam’ between the wall and ‘false wall.’
He pulled the false wall to the right, revealing a stairwell leading down to the basement.
They found 25 children in the basement, including 12 children under age 2, prosecutors said.
There were two adult employees supervising them in the basement and one of them, Valerie Fresquez, accepted a plea deal and testified at Faith’s trial, KRDO-TV reported.
Charges against Fresquez will be dropped if she meets some unspecified steps.
The 26th child who had been in the basement was picked up by a parent while police were at the day care, authorities said.
Many of the children had soiled or wet diapers and were sweaty and thirsty, according to an arrest affidavit.
Faith’s lawyer, Josh Tolini, said she had difficulty saying to ‘no’ to parents who wanted to place their children at her day care and that the situation snowballed.
She made some ‘incredibly poor decisions about how to do this,’ Tolini said.
Day care employee Christina Swauger was convicted of the same charges as Faith and is awaiting sentencing.
Swauger was supposed to be sentenced Thursday as well, but she was quarantined in jail and her hearing was moved to November 4, according to KOAA
An arrest warrant has been issued for another former day care employee who failed to appear in court, said Howard Black, a spokesperson for the 4th Judicial District Attorney’s Office in Colorado.
Counterpoint School, also owned by Faith, was shut down by state investigators.
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