Editor's note: Contact7 seeks out audience tips and feedback to help people in need, resolve problems and hold the powerful accountable. If you know of a community need our call center could address, or have a story idea for our investigative team to pursue, please email us at email@example.com. Find more Contact7 stories here.
JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. -- The Colorado Department of Human Services has ordered the immediate shutdown of Little Minds Learning Center in Jefferson County.
The suspension order cites "consistent failures" to maintain qualified staff and staffing ratios.
It also notes several "safe sleep" violations.
The state alleges that all the violations listed in its order have been willful or deliberate.
"For them to close abruptly like this and not give us any fair warning was disastrous to probably a hundred families," said Brian Scarpetta, a parent who was left scrambling to find alternative care for his child.
License issued in 2014
The Department's summary of the action states that a license to operate was first issued on July 3, 2014. Little Minds Learning Center is located at 5882 S. Youngfield Court in unincorporated Jefferson County.
That license authorized the care of 15 children aged 2 months to 18 months; 34 children aged 1 year to 3 years; and 50 children aged 2 1/2 years to 7 years.
In 2016, the licensee was the subject of an adverse licensing recommendation that resulted in a six-month settlement agreement with the department. That action was initiated due to a consistent failure to maintain licensing standards as well an an incident where an infant was burned by hot water from a microwave.
After the settlement agreement concluded, the department says it observed additional and consistent failures to maintain qualified staff, appropriate staff-child supervision ratios, or to obtain background checks and maintain records establishing that staff was appropriately trained.
On Jan. 19, the department notified the daycare's licensee that it was demoting its license to probationary status based on the number, and dangerous nature, of its licensing violations.
Since January 2017, the licensee has received five safe sleep violations. The most recent was on April 17, 2018.
- On July 26, 2017 a department representative observed a 3-month-old infant swaddled in a crib without the required doctor's orders.
- On August 17, 2017 a department representative observed that a 9-month-old infant was sleeping in a crib with a loosely fitted sheet.
- On December 11, 2017 an 11-month-old infant was found sleeping with a pacifier that had a stuffed animal attached, posing a suffocation hazard.
- On April 17, 2018 a Department representative observed an infant sleeping in a crib with a pacifier attached to a long strap, posing a strangulation hazard.
The summary also states that the daycare has consistently violated department rules related to the required child-to-staff ratio, with three violations in 2018.
It was documented that a staff member grabbed a child by the arm on May 21 and was screaming at the child while the child was crying and rolling on the floor. That same staff member was heard yelling profanities throughout the child care center as he exited the facility.
The DHS ordered that the Little Minds Learning Center license be summarily suspended pending proceedings to determine whether that license should be further suspended or revoked.
The head of Little Minds Learning Center said the company has significant disagreement with the Department of Human Services.
CEO Todd Barnhardt told Denver7, "We are deeply frustrated and saddened by the actions that didn't allow us due process, and by the positions it put parents in."
Barnhardt says they tried to get DHS and the Attorney General to return a phone call or to set up a meeting, but received no reply.
The state's order indicates there will be an Administrative Hearing to determine whether the license will be further suspended, or revoked.