I-Team: State investigating Mercer Co. daycare after allegations of child abuse

MERCER COUNTY — Hitting children, dragging them, screaming at them and unexplained bruises are just some of the allegations state investigators made in a report on a Mercer County daycare.

The Mercer County Sheriff’s office told News Center 7′s I-Team that all of these allegations involve preschoolers.

State investigators wrote in their report Mercer County Children Services proved a staff member “abused, endangered, or neglected a child.”

The allegations are all centered on the Victorum Learning Center in Celina.

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The findings of state investigators with the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, which oversees daycare licensing, are detailed in a report that News Center 7 obtained a copy of.

The document outlines allegations of verbal abuse.

At one point investigators write that during staff interviews, staff said they saw other staff “yelling/screaming” at a child while face-to-face with them, and that they saw other staff yell various derogatory remarks to children.

The report also details physical abuse accusations.

One section reads, “Pulling children by arms, hitting a child in the chest, dragging a child was observed through video.”

ODJFS investigators found learning center staff didn’t tell parents, writing “Several children were going home injured, staff not knowing how injury occurred.”

It also stated, “Parents not notified of their child being pulled and hit by a staff member” and “Child sent home with unexplained bruises.”

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The state said staff didn’t tell authorities either. At one point, the document reads, “Staff member was observed on camera dragging, pulling, and hitting a child. A report to CPS was not made.”

“Well, our agency originally got the first call on this, I believe, in about mid-July of this year,” said Mercer County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Doug Timmerman.

The Mercer County Sheriff’s Office told the I-Team their detectives investigated “at least three” separate claims of possible physical abuse involving an employee at the center.

Deputies told the I-Team they worked with Mercer County Children Services on the investigation and gave their findings to the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office Monday morning.

“They will be reviewing the case for any possible charges that they may see fit,” said Timmerman.

News Center 7′s John Bedell went to the center for comment Monday.

A spokesperson sent News Center 7 a statement that said in part that they are saddened by the findings and are working to make sure nothing like this ever happens again. They added “No one who was involved with any situation that has either been proven, accused, or speculated is associated with Victorum Learning Center.”

When News Center 7 asked the center spokesperson to clarify “no one involved is associated” with the center, they said they resigned.

Mike Carter told the I-Team he has a granddaughter the same age as some of the kids at the facility at the center of the ODJFS report.

“She starts kindergarten later this year,” Carter said.

He says investigators detailing the video evidence they have shows the importance of cameras at daycares.

“For their protection and the kids’ protection and the families’ protection,” he said.

News Center 7 will continue providing updates as they become available.

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