As word spread that police had raided a day care center near downtown Colorado Springs the previous day, dozens of parents raced to pick up their children Thursday at a second center licensed to the same operator.
The parking lot of Counterpoint School, at 610 E. Willamette Ave., was filled Thursday morning after parents received a call from the day care to pick up their children.
They were told Counterpoint, authorized to care for 122 preschool children, was closing, a day after Play Mountain Place, 838 E. Willamette Ave., was raided and its license suspended.
The closures of both day cares run by Carla Marie Faith, who apparently was caring for more children at Play Mountain Place than the six that her state license allowed, have created a hardship for parents, who now have to find alternate care for their children.
“I was on a year-long waiting list to get into that place,” said Jeanette Conde, whose son, 2, and daughter, 3½ attended the day care centers that have shut down. “Everybody loved it. We loved it. But apparently it was just too many kids.
“Now both of our children have no care.”
She brought both her kids to Faith’s facilities while she went to culinary school at Pikes Peak Community College and her husband, a teacher, went to work. Now, she might drop out of school, she said.
“I’m completely betrayed. Every parent that we talk to, we all feel it is so hard to trust your children with people and we felt like we could really trust them,” Conde said.
The closures of Faith’s day care centers also will exacerbate the problem many working parents face finding affordable day care, which can cost a minimum of $1,000 a month in Colorado Springs.
It’s also not the first time Faith has run afoul of licensing agencies while running day care centers.
Authorities shut down several of her child care homes in California, the Los Angeles Times reported in 1998. In one unlicensed facility, investigators found 44 small children.
At the time, Faith said she was running the centers “to stay afloat financially,” and was applying for licenses.
Faith did not respond to voicemails Thursday asking for comment.
Officers went to Play Mountain Place on Wednesday after being asked by the state Department of Human Services to check on the welfare of children at the center, police spokesman Lt. James Sokolik said in a statement Thursday.
Police said Faith lives in the multistory Victorian home, which has no visible sign that it is a day care center.
Not finding any children, officers spoke with Faith, who, according to Sokolik, “refused to cooperate.” While still in the home, officers said they heard the sound of children, Sokolik said.
Eventually, they found “a false wall” leading to a finished basement, where they discovered 26 children — 20 more than the license allowed — all under the age of 3, and two adults, police said.
There have been no allegations that any of the children in Faith’s day care centers have been mistreated, and Faith, 58, has not been arrested. Three workers at Play Mountain Place were arrested on suspicion of misdemeanor child abuse relating to neglect, but the charges have been withdrawn.
Conde said she never saw signs of abuse or any activity that aroused her suspicion.
Jenny Pelton, assistant director of Giving Tree Montessori on the west side, said her day care has been “flooded with calls” since Wednesday afternoon. She’s had to turn about 10 parents away because she can’t take more children.
“I felt so sorry for the people calling. They are beside themselves,” Pelton said.
Betsy Murphy, whose 2-year-old son attended Play Mountain Place, is another parent who was blindsided by the closure of her day care center.
She said she received a text from Faith on Wednesday, alerting her to pick up her son. Faith told her Play Mountain Place was being shut down and offered little details.
Outside Faith’s home, she met with a police officer and a DHS caseworker, who showed her the narrow staircase leading to the basement. At the bottom of the steps, she saw four identical high-chairs in a row.
She described Faith as personable and caring, who ran an exemplary center.
“It never seemed chaotic,” she said. “I’ve been to a hundred day cares, and they are gross. This one wasn’t. It was calm, clean and wonderful.”
Murphy would hear her son tell his teachers he loved them before leaving each day, and he often spoke fondly of them on the weekends.
The day care was “instrumental” in helping her son overcome his anxiety of being left alone, she said. But she started to worry after her son became more “clingy” in the last week and crying on his way to day care.
“Don’t take me to the little house. Don’t take me downstairs,” her son said to her. At the time, Murphy was unsure what her son was talking about, only aware of a center behind Faith’s home, which she recounted as “wonderful.”
She described the renovated garage behind Faith’s home, where she was told her son was being watched. Next to it was a cottage with a kitchen and a classroom. In between both was a remodeled shed that had a play kitchen and a patio with toys.
“The thought of leaving him again is terrifying because I thought this was a great place,” the pediatric physical therapist said. “There’s a huge problem here. This is a person I love, I trusted with my son.”
Parents weren’t the only ones left wondering what happens next.
Andrea Bourrie, a teacher at Counterpoint, was told Thursday there might be an inspection when she arrived in the morning. A few hours later, she was told the center was being shut down.
Now, she said she’s without a job before the holidays and no way to support her sons, 3 and 14.
Bourrie said she rarely interacted with Faith, who only came in to do billing. She found out about the raid at Play Mountain Place from parents.
Her classrooms at Counterpoint had an average of 17 kids with two teachers and never exceeded 20 kids, she said.
Authorities tried to investigate Faith’s home on Sept. 13, a DHS inspection report shows. Faith refused authorities access to the two additional buildings and storage shed on her property, saying that they were rentals and did not have keys.
Faith told the DHS worker that she lived where care is provided but refused to let them inside, the report stated.
DHS did not provide an answer to questions about whether the state was aware of her previous violations in California before issuing her a license in Colorado.
The lack of information has some parents worried that there could be more about the closures that they haven’t been told.
After Rob Francis picked up his son Thursday from Counterpoint School, he said he left knowing very little about the reasons the day care center closed.
“I want to know if there is something going on that my child was exposed to. I think that’s a basic question: ‘Why did you get your license taken away and why are you being investigated?” Francis asked.
“To me that seems like basic information that every parents should have been afforded.”
Reach Olivia at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @oliviaprentzel