Investigation opens into Kansas daycare that 'ties down' babies, with high risk of suffocation

Doctors say that babies should sleep on their backs at all times until they are 1 year old. The site adds swaddling is fine as long as the baby is on its back.


                            Investigation opens into Kansas daycare that 'ties down' babies, with high risk of suffocation
(Source: Getty Images)

The mother of a 7-month-old boy expressed outrage after she saw her son tied up in a sleep sack at daycare, according to The Daily Net.

The Kansas Department of Children and Families, or DCF, called Tanya late March to tell her that they had received a report and a photo of her son. They told her that they were investigating an incident at Miss Anne’s daycare in Leavenworth, reported Fox News.

When the DCF told Tanya that they could not send her the photo due to protocol, she drove herself directly to their office 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.

"The ponytail holder on his back makes it so he can't roll over," Tanya, a mother of four, explained. "He's on his stomach. He should have been laid on his back."

Tanya expounded that the restraint prevents the child from protecting himself if he or she spits up and cannot breathe. Her child, she said, wouldn't be able to turn himself to a safe position. "My son could have died that day," she said.

Tanya urged 41 Action News to not reveal her last name because she holds a government job, but at the same time, she voiced her concern and wanted others to be aware of the negligence. While she claimed that she is not an emotional person, the incident shook her up, reported St. Louis Post Dispatch.

Through tears, Tanya said, "You know, I was in the military for 22 years. I don’t shake easily…" but as her voice strengthened, she asserted, "this shook me to my core."

"Day care centers that are not upholding standards of care should see this as a warning," Tanya said. "I swore I'd protect my child and I meant it. And there are others out there just like me."

After visiting the DCF office, she drove straight to the daycare and picked her son, vowing to never send him back to the facility.

However, Tanya was not the only person to be informed about her child's predicament. Deirdre Engle, the mother of 6-month-old Elora, was reported by the DCF that they had received a photo of her in a sleeping sack, face down, with the sack pulled tight with a hairband. The DCF told her that they were investigating the incident.

"When I first saw it, I didn't really think it was her. I had to look at it for a couple minutes before I believed," Engle said.

Engle echoed similar concerns, "Imagine being tied in a way that wouldn't allow you to move muscles you are just learning to move, and not being able to communicate your distress. It's heartbreaking."

KSHB anchor Christa Dubill had a conversation with Engle over the phone, after which, the mother sent a written statement to the news channel.

"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 daycare since she was 5 weeks old. I've trusted these people for her entire life and I was wrong," wrote Engle.

She explained that swaddling is actually meant to prevent a newborn from startling themselves awake from its "arm flailing reflexes". It ensures that a child is warm and snuggled like they are still in their mother's womb.

"This was a baby, tied down so she couldn't move," she said.

On March 27, Engle picked her daughter up from the same daycare and hasn't sent her back ever since.


A third mother, Jennifer New, was also contacted by the DCF in late March. While they assured her that her daughter was not featured in any of the photos they had received, they wanted her to check on things for safety and tell them if everything was okay.

The DCF was approached by 41 Action News for comment along with the said daycare facility. The daycare referred to 41 Action News in their Facebook post on April 17 but the Department of Children and Families said that it cannot comment specifically on investigations. The DCF, however, mentioned that it follows the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation that babies be put to sleep on their backs.

41 Action News received a statement from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment:

KDHE’s Childcare 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 claimed that she had done all she could to keep her son safe, but she thought too much time was wasted between the initial report and the subsequent information to concerned families.

She admitted that, before pulling her baby out of the facility, she sat down with the owners to have a private conversation before she decided to go public with her story.

"I would expect them to say, 'We're so sorry that this happened on our watch. We're appalled. We can't believe this happened.' I got none of that," Tanya said.

The owners told her that only one employee was responsible for the restraints and that he or she would be transferred out of the childcare immediately. However, the employee wasn't terminated until April 16.

"When I found out [that employee] was still working during all this time I started getting concerned about the daycare as a whole, not just one person," Tanya said. "Whatever happens under that roof is their responsibility."

Even Engle commented on the issue with similar concerns regarding the safety of her child.

"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…"

"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?"

Fox News received an emailed statement from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) saying that it is "currently reviewing child care licensing protocol to determine if there was any misconduct."

"KDHE is looking at different laws/regulations and applying different protocol," KDHE said, clarifying that its investigation is separate from Kansas DCF. "In FY 2017, the KPRC received 67,372 reports. Of these, 56 percent were assigned for further investigation."

Courtesy The Daily Net