Records reveal complaints against beleaguered day care and owner

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While a Carson City day-care owner awaits a court date on charges of child abuse health department records show Sugar N Spice Day Care has received seven complaints since April 2004, ranging from accusations of spanking to locking toddlers in a closet when they refuse to nap.

Owner and licensee Norma Childers was arrested on suspicion of felony child endangerment March 31 for allegedly putting duct tape over the mouths of two children who were being noisy.

According to Carson City Environmental Health Department records, the first complaint made by an anonymous employee on April 9, 2004, alleges caregivers have spanked and grabbed children, are not allowed to hold babies and that two children left unsupervised in a bathroom engaged in "inappropriate touching."

Health Department Investigator Dustin Booth noted in a report that he spoke with Childers on April 12 and she said she'd "lightly swatted" her grandson before. Booth wrote that during his visit he saw caregivers holding babies.

"Norma was not aware of the two children being unsupervised in the bathroom. When I mentioned the name of one of the children involved she did remember that particular child having a problem," Booth wrote. "(She) told the parents about the situation and (said) there does not seem to be a problem anymore."

On Aug. 19, 2004, the accusations for which Childers was arrested were filed with the health department. According to court records, an employee alleged Childers taped shut the mouths of a 3-year-old girl and a 4-year-old boy before they were put down for a nap.

Booth noted in his report he turned the case over to Carson City Sheriff's investigators on Aug. 23. On Jan. 21, Booth spoke with Childers.

"She denies that there was malicious intent in her actions and that she was only playing," he wrote.

On Sept. 17, 2004, an anonymous complaint alleged caregivers at the center were yelling at one another. When he spoke with Childers, Booth noted, she stated relatives work together in the baby room and sometimes don't get along.

On March 15, an anonymous caller asked Booth is if was OK to put a screaming child in a "secluded broom closet with the lights out and door closed."

The complaint was turned over to sheriff's investigators.

On March 25, an anonymous complaint was received alleging the director of the facility, Becky Nowack, is not at the center the required 25 hours a week, children are locked in a closet, and food is left sitting out.

"I spoke with Norma about the complaint. She said Becky does have another job so her days are sporadic. She is there every Monday from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. then plans curriculum the rest of the week," he wrote.

Booth said Childers showed him the "closet," which he described Tuesday during a phone interview as a former bathroom with no plumbing.

"In the room there was a crib, shelving, window coverings and a refrigerator. She stated that she only puts one particular child in the room to sleep when he is upset," according to the report.

Booth said he talked to Childers about supervision and "that needs to happen at all times." He concluded the food was properly handled.

On March 28, the State Child Care Licensing Department received a complaint which they forwarded to Booth.

In that complaint, a mother alleged that when her 2-year-old was picked up that day she was fussy and kicking her feet, saying "no, no, no." It was then she noticed the child's shoes were wrapped several times with packing tape, the mother wrote in her complaint.

When asked about the packing tape, an employee allegedly said there was a note explaining the girl kept removing her shoes and throwing them so they were taped onto her feet. A note signed by Childers explained to parents if tape is found on their children's shoes, it's because they would not keep them on.

On Tuesday, Booth received another complaint from an anonymous party, claiming that when she picked up her grandson on March 21, she heard a child crying in the "closet." The complainant alleged when she asked Childers about it, Childers said the child in the room would not take a nap.

Booth spoke with Childers on Tuesday afternoon regarding the March 28 and Tuesday complaints, according to health department records. In his report, Booth noted when he was there, a child was in the "closet," with the door closed.

"I told Norma that if she wants to use the room in question she would need to keep the door open at all times and secure the refrigerator door so a child could not open it," he wrote.

"She stated they were no longer going to use the room." Booth wrote he'd do a follow-up to see if the crib had been removed.

In regards to the taping incident, Booth said, Childers told him she was no longer using tape to keep shoes on the children.

She said she was told by a fire inspector the children must have shoes on at all times. Booth said he was unaware of such a requirement, but said he'd ask the inspectors. Childers also told Booth that as of Tuesday, no tape is allowed in the rooms.

Licensed in March 2003, the Old Hot Springs Road center may care for 56 children with a minimum staff of four employees, Booth said.

When Childers was called for comment, husband, Michael, said she was unavailable.

"You people are pathetic, don't call back," he said.

n Contact reporter F.T. Norton at ftnorton@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1213.

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