COLORADO SPRINGS — Inside Counterpoint School daycare, before the murals of whales and seasonal decorations, are the licenses for the building for the Colorado Department of Human Services, El Paso County and others.
The environment inside seemingly leaves no corner undecorated, with both traditional and sign language alphabets with turf-lined playground outside.
The atmosphere won many parents over, some even calling it like a museum.
“I wouldn’t send them anywhere else,” David Fine told FOX21 News the day of the raid. His various grandkids have attended the daycare for around a decade. “Day after day, month after months, year after year, it’s a super positive place. It’s a super beautiful place with people that live them and also educate them. What else could you want for your kids?”
Fine was far from alone in his admiration of Counterpoint, even as he and other parents were picking up their little ones because the school had been shut down.
Counterpoint was closed because the daycare’s owner, Carla Faith, had her license suspended at Play Mountain Place after investigators found 26 children, all under the age of 3 years old, hidden in a basement behind a false wall. Some of the violations DHS found include too many kids for the number of adult caretakers, staff members without proper training or background checks, lack of employment or volunteer records, and no records of the kids enrolled at the daycare.
“The reason we would suspend the licenses of multiple locations is that they are all affiliated with the individual who we suspect caused imminent danger to children,” said Erin Mewhinney, the director of Early Care and Learning division of Colorado’s DHS.
Mewhinney said typically, violations found by licensing specialists are allowed to be corrected without suspension of the owner or facility’s license because the state recognizes the difficulty of finding childcare but, in situations like at Play Mountain Place, they take the most cautious approach in regards to a child’s well being.
During the welfare check turned raid on November 13, the children were found in the basement of the main residence on the property at 838 Willamette Avenue. Faith’s license only applied to 838 1/2 Willamette Avenue, the address of a building backing up to the alleyway north of Willamette. CDHS confirms that is one of multiple unlicensed daycare operations Faith was running in Colorado Springs.
DHS said a complaint on November 8 alerted them to the existence of an unlicensed daycare on 1319 Franklin, and the day after the welfare check on November 14, another complaint alerted them to another unlicensed daycare at 814 Willamette.
Even if 838 Willamette was a licensed facility, CDHS said, there were so many other violations, Faith’s license would have been suspended regardless.
Mewhinney said when they learn about unlicensed daycare operations, they serve a “cease and desist” notice and will occasionally inform the owner of the licensing process.
Carla Faith did receive such hospitality.
“We’re going to serve that cease and desist order and we’re going to ensure that they either follow our process to get licensed or continue down the legal process to make sure they’re not providing care,” said Mewhinney.
The California Department of Social Services, the agency tasked with regulating daycares in the Golden State, says operating without a license is one of the many violations they found against Faith in 1990.
A spokesperson for the California Department of Social Services said many records are destroyed or moved to warehouses after seven years, so many records from the 1990s are not readily available, but the Department was able to find three records, including the aforementioned complaint that was founded.
The Los Angeles Times reported on more violations against Faith in 1998, including multiple instances of Faith caring for more children than she was legally allowed, and unsanitary conditions in one of her daycares. The article reports Faith was put on probation in 1991, and the state had shut down two of Faith’s daycares.
Colorado’s DHS said FBI and CBI background checks turned up no charges against Faith, and while there is a voluntary database that tracks abuse and neglect charges from all 50 states, there is nothing similar for license violations of daycare operators.
“Each state has its own child abuse and neglect database. We started working in partnerships with the other states about two years ago,” said Mewhinney. “We had a federal rule come through that it basically mandated the states to figure this out by 2020.”
Specifically, September 30, 2020. The federal government is requiring states to figure out the solution, but essentially providing no support or guidance on what it will look like, other than states communicating with each other.
In all likelihood there will be no database for license backgrounds, so it will require a state to call each of the other 49 states to check if a daycare license applicant has had any violations. It’s a process Mewhinney admits will be tedious.
“I think it’s important to do our due diligence if we have the ability to make sure people that want to be licensed in Colorado don’t have anything we would find concerning,” Mewhinney said.
Something that concerned CDHS and Colorado Springs Police during the welfare check, was Carla Faith telling authorities there were no children on the property that day.
It was part of a slew of behavior both CSPD and CDHS called “uncooperative.” The agencies were responding to a complaint about too many kids, so that raised suspicions.
There were two other times inspectors or licensing specialists inspected Play Mountain Place only to be told there were no children present— once on January 20, 2017, and another on September 13, 2019.
“If there is ever any suspicion of child abuse and neglect, please use the Child Abuse hotline or contact childcare licensing if you have any concerns,” said Mewhinney.
The child abuse hotline is 1-844-CO-4-KIDS (1-844-264-5437), and the licensing office is 303-866-5948.
As of now, Colorado Springs Police has announced no arrests related to the daycare.