Daycare worker charged with fondling child in his care

Prosecutors have filed charges of abuse against a man entrusted with the care of children.

WTHR has obtained court documents with graphic descriptions of alleged abuse by 20-year-old Ali Al-Awadi on a four year-old girl.

Investigators say it happened at the The Children's Choice Learning Center on 86th Street on the St. Vincent campus.

Al-Awadi is behind bars at the Marion County Jail, charged with child molestation. According to court documents, Al-Awadi had worked at the day care center since last July.

Employees there told investigators Al-Awadi had been talked to before by the center's management about his interactions with other little girls there.

The alleged victim is just four years old, but according to the affidavit of probable cause charging Al-Awadi, she told her parents, teachers and police the same story over and over again.

The little girl said the day care employee who she calls "Mr. Ali" touched her "down there," while pointing to and touching her 'private area,' and now it hurts really bad."

The little girl told investigators "Mr. Ali" touched her last Thursday during nap time.

Court documents show the child told another teacher about what allegedly happened later that day.

That teacher told investigators she asked the little girl to repeat her story in front of "Mr. Ali," at which time he picked up the little girl and sat her on his lap.

According to court documents, the teacher who initiated the exchange between the child and Al-Awadi told investigators Al-Awadi denied the allegations, saying to the little girl, "No, thank you! No, thank you!" and "I didn't do that!"

In the affidavit charging Al-Awadi, the 20-year-old told police he didn't touch the little girl, but instead, she wrapped her legs around his arm when he was trying to lay her down for a nap.

Court documents show Al-Awadii also told investigators the child repeatedly tried to wrap her legs around his right arm.

The affidavit goes on to say Al-Awadi also told investigators he thought the little girl was sexually experimenting and he believed she just liked how it felt.

In those same documents, the little girl's parents told investigators no one at Children's Choice Learning Center told them about what happened.

They found out from their daughter when she got home that night and told them it hurt to go the bathroom. According to investigators, the little girl's genitals had injuries on them consistent with her story.

That's when the parents told investigators they questioned the little girl and she told them the same story.

When the child's parents questioned the day care about why they weren't told immediately of the allegations, they were told "that was their protocol and they had to follow a process."

"I was angry about it because I felt like this is where I entrust my child to go and you keep my child safe and do what's in the best interest of my child,” said one mother who just withdrew her son from the center this week. She asked not to be identified.

This mother said she had to lean about the allegations and investigation in the news.

"They all have kids too. If this was your child, how would you want to be notified and I don't feel like they took that seriously,” she said of the daycare's management.

Court documents also show other employees told investigators Al-Awadi had been told before, it was inappropriate for him to pick up the older little girls or to let them sit on his lap.

One employee told police in an interview, "when it was time to take the kids to the bathroom, Ali chose to take the girls to the bathroom."

When questioned about that, the center's management told police they do not have a policy about male employees taking little girls to the bathroom and that "they do not discriminate."

According to court documents, a sexual assault exam of the little girl showed injuries to her genitals consistent with her story.

The director at Children's Choice Learning Center has been put on administrative leave, pending the outcome of an investigation by Child Protective Services and the Family and Social Services Administration which inspects and licenses daycares.

A spokesperson for the center said Al-Awadi underwent a national background check as well as finger printing before being hired at the center last July.

"That is actually scary and, you know, it kinda hits close to home, because my child was there, even if it was just a week," said one mother who didn't want her face on camera or her named used.

She said her 1-year-old son attended the daycare before she pulled him out because she couldn't afford to send him there full-time.

Given the allegations that have surfaced, she said she was relieved.

"You hear about it all the time, but you really don't know where or when it's going to happen," she said.

The mom went on to say her son did fine there and she liked his teacher and was never worried for his safety. Going forward, though, choosing a new daycare will be a different story.

"You don't know," she said. "You kinda just have to put your faith and trust into God for one, that your child's gonna be okay, but you're also putting your faith and trust in the care providers that are providing the care for your child."

The parent company of the daycare Bright Horizons Family Solutions released a statement which read:

"Our most important responsibility is to ensure the health and safety of the children in our care. Any time a concern like this is brought to us, we take it seriously.

As soon as it was brought to our attention, we placed the teacher on administrative leave. We also reported it to the appropriate children's agencies. We will support the agencies and local authorities in any way we can as they look into what may have happened.

The teacher had a clear background and reference check at the time of hire and no other teachers, parents or children have reported any concerns."

Criminal background checks review the state and county records where employees have resided, worked or gone to school in the last seven years.

Al-Awadi is behind bars at the Marion County Jail.