13 Investigates: State puts Shelbyville daycare on probation

Children Today Child Care Center in Shelbyville has been called "unsafe, unclean, unfit for children" by former employees. (WTHR Photo: Jennie Runevitch)
Shelbyville Daycare Concerns
Day care concerns

SHELBYVILLE, Ind. (WTHR) – Unsafe, unclean, unfit for children.

It's how former employees describe a daycare in Shelbyville that's now getting serious scrutiny from the state.

Those workers contacted 13 Investigates about the problems at "Children Today Child Care Center." And 13 Investigates discovered the facility is now getting put on probation.

"The reason I stayed there as long as I did is I love those kids," said Stephanie Phares, who worked at Children Today for a month.

She says both her checks from the boss bounced and described conditions for kids as horrible.

One month is all she could take.

"It's just unsafe. It's not a place I would send my children," Phares said. "I feel unsafe. The whole facility is unclean. It is falling apart. The paint is chipping. They don't clean the carpets. We had an issue with lice and all the kids were getting it because the cots were never clean and weren't designated for certain people."

Jennifer Debaun, another former employee, left after six weeks.

"It's nasty," Debaun said. "Plus I was never trained. First day I was there, 16 kids by myself. When the state came to inspect, they put the lunch lady with me to have 16 kids with two of us, from two all the way up to pre-k."

The workers, who are parents themselves, contacted 13 Investigates out of frustration and concern for the children. They're not the only ones worried about what's happening inside Children Today Child Care.

The state of Indiana is, too.

13 Investigates discovered Children Today Child Care has a level one quality rating, on a scale from one to four on the FSSA website. Inspectors with the FSSA also found 137 violations at this daycare over the last three years. They're each detailed in inspection reports online.

Those reports also show there have been ten critical health and safety violations at this facility over the past three years, including five current critical violations. Those are for things like paint chipping off walls, dirty walls and floors, expired insurance on their van used to transport children and most worrisome to the state - an incorrect staff to child ratio.

That means there are too many kids for each caregiver.

Former workers say employees aren't screened either.

"They hire people off the street," Phares said. "I have never done a drug test. I've never had a background check. They don't know what these people could be capable of and they're just throwing them in to work with kids."

Marni Lemons, a spokesperson for the FSSA says the state has serious concerns about this facility and within the week will put it on probation.

That means the day care stays open, but parents are told of the problems and the facility has to fix them or it get shut down.

13 investigates reached out to the president of Children Today Child Care Center, who lives in Kentucky.

"That is a group of former employees that are trying to extort some money from us," Jeff Owens told us by phone.

He blames disgruntled employees, staff turnover and bad contractors who were paid, but didn't complete work, for the violations.

And Owens claims he's committed to making a fix.

"The paint will be done. The playground equipment will be addressed. The van will be addressed. We'll address all of them. We take the concerns the state has very seriously. We look at the state as a partner," Owens said.

13 Investigates found many of the violations are repeat offenses at this facility, that weren't fixed when inspectors found them the first time.

Former workers just want children to be safe.

"If the effort was put into it, it could be a nice place. It could be good for kids." Phares said. "I would like to see it fixed."

Lemons says that this facility has until February 28 to come into compliance and fix the problems.

Parents will get letters within a week, letting them know Children Today Child Care is on probation and inspectors will be back out for random checks to make sure changes are made to provide the best care for kids.

You can research child care facilities in your area through the FSSA website.

It offers a portal to search by name and location, read inspection reports for each licensed child care facility, and see what violations, if any, the facility has received in the last three years.

Just in the last two weeks, FSSA says it added a way to check red-flagged critical health and safety violations, which are the most serious and concerning to inspectors.