KANSAS CITY, Mo. — UPDATE 9:45 PM 4/18/2018: Kansas officials say they were first notified that infants were tied up in sleep sacks on March 22.
Kansas Department of Health and Environment officials say they were first alerted to the incident when a Leavenworth County Health Department worker entered information into their system March 22.
KDHE said officials immediately alerted DCF that same day.
Parents confirmed they received calls from DCF on March 22.
The whistleblower in this case, the worker who took the pictures and reported the incident, said she reported this to day care owners in early February, and to the state in mid-February.
41 Action News has also been in contact with a former employee who said she expressed concerns multiple times, most notably the time she said the woman accused in this most recent incident held a yellow duck pillow over the face of a child who wouldn't sleep.
A parent of a child currently in the infant room reached out to 41 Action News to say he has had no issues with the day care and his daughter remains at the center.
This story will be updated as more information becomes available.
A mother is outraged after seeing a photo of her 7-month-old son tied up in a sleep sack at day care.
Tanya describes getting a phone call from the Kansas Department for Children and Families, or DCF, in late March. It had received a report and a photo of her son. Tanya said DCF was investigating an incident at her day care, Miss Anne’s in Leavenworth.
The DCF worker couldn’t send her the photo, so Tanya drove directly to the DCF offices in Leavenworth.
“It was a picture of him in a sleep sack with his arms bound down and the sleeves of the sleep sack tied to the back with a ponytail holder and he was laid face down with his face pretty much in the corner,” she said, shaking.
Tanya asked 41 Action News to not share her last name because of her job with the government, but she wants others to be aware. She said she’s not really an emotional person, but this has been difficult.
“You know, I was in the military for 22 years. I don’t shake easily…” she said, through tears. She continued when her voice strengthened, “this shook me to my core.”
Tayna drove directly from the DCF office that day to the day care, picked up her son, and he hasn’t been back.
Tanya wasn’t the only person to get a phone call.
Deirdre Engle said she got a call, too. Someone had reported her daughter, Elora, being put down the same way — in a sleep sack, face down, with the sack pulled tight with a hair band. Engle said DCF had a photo and was investigating.
Engle talked over the phone with 41 Action News Anchor Christa Dubill, then sent this statement.
“First, I thought there's no way that's my baby, she looks so small! She's laying on her tummy like she always does, but she looks uncomfortable. She's tied up. My baby is tied up. She can't roll over, she can't sit up, if she were to cough up any of her formula, she'd choke. I got scared for her. She's been at this day care since she was 5 weeks old. I've trusted these people for her entire life and I was wrong,” wrote Engle.
Engle pulled her daughter from the day care March 27. She has not been back.
Another mother, Jennifer New, also got a call from DCF in late March. According to her, DCF assured New her daughter wasn’t in any photos they’d received, but they wanted her to check on things and report back.
41 Action News reached out to both the day care in question and the Department of Children and Families.
The day care referred us to their statement they’d posted on Facebook earlier in the day, April 17.
The Department of Children and Families said it can’t comment specifically on investigations.
However, DCF did say it follows the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation that babies be put to sleep on their backs.
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment sent 41 Action News this statement:
“KDHE’s Child care licensing protocol for investigating complaint allegations does involve contacting parents of children in care (as well as facility staff and other potential witnesses) when allegations and concerns relate to child care practices and/or the care and supervision of children. This does not mean every parent will be contacted, as contacts are made for the purpose of determining compliance vs. notifying parents an investigation is underway.
The program's informational brochure about complaint investigations reflects the possible contact with witnesses
Also, please note that although the agencies conduct joint investigations, the DCF investigation is separate from a KDHE child care investigation. We are looking at different laws/regulations and applying different protocol.”
Tanya said she’d done everything to keep her son safe. She thinks too much time passed between the initial report and when families were told.
“I should’ve immediately got a phone call,” she said.
Engle sent more questions and comments with a similar concern.
“How long has it been going on? For how long was I failing to keep my daughter safe? … Why didn't they tell me Elora wasn't safe? I should have been told sooner. All of the parents should have been told…”
She also added her concern about the use of sleep sacks.
“Sleep sacks are used often. I got one for swaddling while in the hospital having Elora. Sleep sacks are 'safer' than blankets... if used correctly. Not using them correctly, they aren't safe. Common sense would tell you not to tie a sleep sack up in the back of an infant and lay that infant down on her belly. But laws aren't always common sense. I need the laws to catch up with the times. What's being done? How do I make this illegal, not just an error in judgment?"