Parents of 19 children who attended a shuttered Colorado Springs day care filed a lawsuit Thursday, alleging negligence.
The 11-page complaint claims the owner of Play Mountain Place, Carla Marie Faith, was negligent while providing care for their children, resulting in injuries and behavioral issues.
The unlicensed day care, at 838 E. Willamette Ave., was shut down last month after authorities conducting a welfare check found a “false wall” leading to a finished basement near Faith’s licensed facility. There they found 26 children, all under the age of 3, and two adults.
According to an inspection report from the Colorado Department of Human Services, the children “appeared not to have a diaper change, a nap or a sufficient meal.”
Colin MacWilliam said he took his son, now 2½ years old, to the emergency room twice for injuries he suffered while at Play Mountain Place.
Once it was for a sprained elbow, which resulted in his son having a cast for four weeks, and a second time for stitches on his chin. MacWilliam recalled seeing a laceration on his son’s chin and scrapes along the inside of this mouth.
Faith told MacWilliam and his wife that the boy was injured after taking a tumble off a stair.
“It sounded like an innocuous injury, nothing substantial, but certainly with what we know now, it raises questions,” he said.
“We’re trying to understand the extent of the injuries and what our kids have been exposed to. Being able to operate a day care in this manner seems completely unacceptable.”
MacWilliam said several of the parents included in the lawsuit claim excessive hitting and tantrums by children were common while at Faith’s day care.
“Stuff happens and maybe you are on the edge of the rules, but in this case it seems like Ms. Faith was operating well outside those boundaries.”
Faith did not return a voicemail asking for comment Thursday.
To be successful in a negligence lawsuit, a lot of factors need to be considered, said Gary Craw, a 40-year attorney.
“The standard is whether or not this day care center did what a reasonably careful day care center operator would do in the same circumstances,” Craw said. Sometimes that “reasonable” care is defined by the ratio of staff and safety equipment required by state regulations, he said.
Depending on the severity of the negligence, evidence — including medical records and surveillance video — could be beneficial to the case to show that injuries were caused when the children were left unsupervised for long time, he said.
A diagnosis by a doctor would also make for a stronger case, but that would be tough to get when young children are involved, Craw said.
“You can tell the kid is struggling, but pinpointing what caused it and who is responsible is a toss-up,” he said.
But attorney Danny Kay said he’s confident experts can connect the care provided at Faith’s center to the children’s behaviors, including separation anxiety and self-harm.
“The day care center created an atmosphere that subjected these children to incredible harm,” Kay said. “The parents are just now uncovering the effects on the children.”
Erinn Miles said she and her husband were “totally blindsided,” adding that she thought her daughter, age 2, was getting “excellent care” at a licensed facility.
Miles started to become concerned when she noticed a cut on her daughter’s lip and scrapes on her nose after picking her child up from Faith’s care. She was also told her child fell down the stairs.
“Truthfully, kids fall. But they shouldn’t be falling down stairs at a day care that didn’t have stairs,” Miles said.
When her daughter started peeling back her fingernails past the nail beds until they were raw and sometimes drawing blood, she told Faith.
Faith reassured her that her daughter would get “extra snuggles” and “extra love.”
“The truth is, Carla is such a good liar. I believed her when she said that she took good care of my child,” Miles said.
It wasn’t until Miles started to talk to other parents that she learned other children at the day care were pulling out their hair, excessively scratching and harming themselves in other ways in what she believes is a result of anxiety or stress.
“It’s hard to believe that they could all be unrelated; that they aren’t connected to this day are where our children were not being properly care for,” Miles said.
She and the other parents plan to have a child therapist meet with each parent and child to provide advice on how to support their children and discuss the potential long-term effects of neglect, she said.
Colorado Springs police issued a summons for child abuse and neglect for one of Faith’s employees, Christina Swauger, after “unsecured marijuana” was found at the home, said spokesman Lt. Jim Sokolik. Faith is not facing criminal charges, police said.
After the Nov. 13 welfare check, DHS suspended Faith’s day care license, resulting in the shutdown of Faith’s other licensed facility, Counterpoint School.
DHS also found Faith was providing unlicensed care at 1319 Franklin St. and 814 E. Willamette Ave.
The department said it will be doing “a follow-up” at the unlicensed facilities to make sure care is no longer being provided.