By Jennifer Earl, ,
Published April 19, 2018
Deirdre Engle was on vacation with her family when she received a shocking call from the Kansas Department for Children and Families (DCF) alerting her that they had received a photo of her baby being "tied down" at a local day care facility.
As soon as Engle got home, she rushed to Kansas DCF to see the photo for herself. After registering that the baby pictured was in fact her 6-month-old daughter, Elora, Engle told Fox News she went "cold."
"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.
The baby was face-down and wrapped in a sleep sack, which was tied tight with a ponytail holder. And she allegedly wasn't the only child tied down at Miss Anne's Childcare and Learning Center in Leavenworth – several parents received heart-stopping calls from Kansas DCF in late March.
Kansas DCF confirmed to Fox News via email Thursday that parents of the alleged victims were all notified about the investigation on the same day, though the agency said it couldn't comment on individual cases.
"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."
Tanya, who asked Fox News not share her last name, said she was also contacted. At first, the organization asked if she liked the day care and wanted her thoughts on the "sleeping situation" in the infant room. Minutes later, they revealed the real reason they were calling: her 9-month-old was also tied up with a hair tie during nap time.
"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."
The restraint prevents the child from protecting himself if he spits up or can't breathe, Tanya explained. He wouldn't be able to turn himself to a safe position.
"My son could have died that day," Tanya said.
Engle echoed Tanya's 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."
Swaddling is meant to stop a newborn from startling themselves awake with their arm flailing reflexes and to keep them snuggled and warm like they're still in the womb, Engle explained.
HealthyChildren.org says 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 and it's not too tight, making it hard for the baby to move or breathe.
"This was a baby, tied down so she couldn't move," Engle said.
The parents immediately pulled their children out of the facility as soon as the allegations surfaced, though Tanya admits she sat down with the owners to have a private conversation before sharing her story with the public.
"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.
"I swore I'd protect my child and I meant it. And there's others out there just like me."
Instead, Tanya says she was informed there was only one employee responsible for the restraints and was assured that person would be transferred out of infant care. It wasn't until weeks later –on April 16 – Tanya says, that the employee was terminated.
"When I found out [that employee] was still working during all this time I started getting concerned about the day care as a whole, not just one person," Tanya said. "Whatever happens under that roof is their responsibility."
The mothers are now sharing their stories in hopes that other parents will steer clear of the day care and pay closer attention to their day care's practices, especially when it comes to infants.
"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's others out there just like me."
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) told Fox News in an emailed statement that it's 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."
Miss Anne's did not return Fox News' request for comment Thursday afternoon.