Yesterday, we revealed an exclusive report on Cozy Corner Child Care Center in Kimball, Michigan, which Teen Mom OG star Catelynn Baltierra’s daughter, Nova, had previously attended. As we mentioned in our report yesterday, the daycare center is owned by Chris Vanbuskirk whose husband, Tim, is a registered tier 3 Sex Offender. While Chris has claimed that Tim is never allowed on the premises while children are present- and only comes to do maintenance-type work after hours- multiple people we spoke to yesterday claimed that is not true.
While we mentioned that Cozy Corner Child Care Center had violations in the past, we wanted to look more extensively into those to see exactly what they were for. Through our research, we have found that, aside from the major problem of Tim being around children, Cozy Care Child Care Center has had a history of problematic incidents.
August 17, 2017- A Missing Fence and Inadequate Supervision
LARA, the Child Care Licensing Search site through the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs Department of Michigan, pulled up a multitude of violations and corrective action plans for the Cozy Corner Child Care Center from 2017-2020.
The first “Special Investigation Report,” filed on August 17, 2017, contains the following allegations:
- “On 6/22/2017 children were observed playing with balls and other toys in the alley behind the building. The area is not fenced in off of Lapper Road, which is a busy street.”
- “On 6/22 2017 two assistant caregivers were observed to be sitting in ‘camping chairs’ while watching the children and did not appear to be providing adequate supervision.
It notes that a violation was established for the first (fence) allegation, but not for the second (inadequate supervision) allegation.
Here are the details from the report regarding the investigation of the children playing in the area that was not fenced, which a violation was established for:
“On 06/22/2017 at 2:09 PM, I interviewed the complainant who indicated on 06/22/2017 at approximately 11:00 AM she observed children to be playing outside in the alley behind the building. She stated that it was the side of the building the faces toward Range Road and directly across from Lapper Road. The complainant stated that she is aware that the center has a fenced in area across from the parking lot and a nature center towards the back of the building, but that this was not where she observed the children. I asked her how many children she observed and she stated at least ten, if not more. The children were running around, riding bikes, and some were playing with balls and her concern was if a ball were to go into Lapper Road and one of the children were to run after it.
I asked her how many assistant caregivers she observed and she stated two and that they were sitting in “camping chairs”. The complainant did not know who the assistant caregivers were or which classroom they were from.
On 06/22/2017 after I spoke with the complainant the first time, she contacted me again at 2:18 PM to state that she was observing the children and two assistant caregivers back outside playing in the back alley area. The complainant was able to take a quick picture and forwarded it to me.
I completed an unannounced, onsite inspection on 06/23/2017. I arrived at that center at 10:30 AM and first interviewed Licensee Designee, Christina Vanbuskirk. I informed Ms. Vanbuskirk regarding the allegations. Ms. Vanbuskirk admitted that ‘on a couple of occasions’ the school-age children would play in this back area. Ms. Vanbuskirk stated that there would be 7-8 school age children, along with 2-3 assistant caregivers. While in this back area, the children would play kickball and other games on the grassy area. I asked Ms. Vanbuskirk why this back area of the building was being utilized as an outdoor play area, especially since it was not approved by the department. Ms. Vanbuskirk indicated that she did not believe they were doing anything wrong since she thought I had told her it was okay to use the grassy area ‘once in a while’. She also indicated that the area is coned off so if any cars were to come around the corner they would see the barriers. I reminded Ms. Vanbuskirk that the only outdoor play areas approved for child use by the department include her fenced in area across from the parking lot and the nature center, which is at the end of the building. The back alley of the building has never been approved as child use space by the department.
I asked her why the children were not using one of the two approved outdoor play areas and she stated because the bikes and strollers are stored in the back. It is more convenient to use those pieces of equipment and in case a child needs to go in to use the bathroom.
I then interviewed Assistant Caregiver, Haley Denninson. Ms. Denninson stated that she has been employed by the center for the last 1 1⁄2 year and is currently working with the school age children. I asked Ms. Denninson what areas are approved for outdoor play for the child care children and she indicated that the fenced in playground, grassy area by the fenced in playground, the nature center, and the grassy area in the back of the building. She stated that Ms. VanBuskirk had instructed her that these areas are all approved and that the center has used this back area for the past few summers for outdoor play. I asked her what types of activities the children engage in while in the back area and she stated that they ride bikes, use chalk, the balls, scooters, and play various games.
I also asked Ms. Denninson regarding identifying barriers for the children, since this area is not fenced in. She indicated that they use the large trees as visual barriers for the children and review these boundaries each time with the children when they go outside. I also asked her how the cones are placed for visual barriers and she indicated that there are no cones used outside.”
While the report concludes noting that “Upon receipt of an acceptable corrective action plan, I recommend no change in the license status,” there was one very telling thing that stood out in the narrative of the investigation. Specifically, what stood out was that Chris claims the “area is coned off so if any cars were to come around the corner they would see the barriers” while Ms. Denninson claimed “there are no cones outside.” These stories, clearly, do not align.
[Note: On LARA, the date of the document is listed as 8/29/17].
October 3, 2017- In Compliance
On September 18, 2017, Chris received a follow-up letter to the inspection that occurred on 6/23/2017. They noted that “there were no rule violations” and Cozy Corner Child Care was “found to be in compliance with the requirements of Act No. 116 of the Public Acts of 1973, as amended and the applicable Administrative Rules.”
[Note: On LARA, the date of the document is listed as 10/3/17].
June 27, 2017- Unlicensed Space, Emergency Exits Blocked, and More
The second “Special Investigations Report,” filed on June 27, 2017, contains the following allegations:
- “The center is using unlicensed/unapproved space for child care use.”
- “The center served a pre-cooked/frozen lasagna for lunch that was not properly cooked.”
- “Emergency exit doors are blocked with equipment.”
- “Additional findings.”
It notes that a violation was established for everything but the allegation involving the “pre-cooked/frozen lasagna.”
Here are the details from the report regarding the investigation pertaining to the “center using unlicensed/unapproved space for child care use”:
“The complainant indicated that the center previously utilized two suites at the end of the strip, which were licensed. The extra suites are no longer licensed, however Licensee/Program Director, Christina VanBuskirk, still has the keys. On two cold days, 04/04/2018 and 04/05/2018, Ms. VanBuskirk advised the assistant caregivers in the preschool rooms to use the room. The complainant indicated that the extra suites are not set up with equipment and that the teachers just brought down the equipment to use.
I completed an unannounced, on-site inspection on 04/18/2018 and arrived to the center at 11:15 AM. Licensee/Program Director, Christina VanBuskirk, was at a training, however she was contacted by telephone. I explained to Ms. VanBuskirk the allegations in the complaint and she stated that she no longer has the extra units, that were previously licensed, up and running. She confirmed that the units are still under her lease, that she still has keys to the room, however denies using them. She indicated that the rooms are not set up and there is no equipment in them. Ms. VanBuskirk indicated that she is in the process of painting the rooms in anticipation of having them re-licensed. I asked Ms. VanBuskirk if she was allowing the staff to use the empty rooms and she stated that one assistant caregiver, Zoe Ferren, had wanted to use it on a rainy day. However, she does not recall Ms. Ferren asking to use it, but rather she heard from another assistant caregiver, Lisa Evans, that the room had been used. Ms. VanBuskirk indicated that it happened one time, she knew off. I asked Ms. VanBuskirk how Ms. Ferren would have gotten into the empty room and she indicated that she had a key. Ms. VanBuskirk stated that the buildings are all keyed the same and use one key. I asked her which staff members have keys and she indicated that those who open and close, and then named four additional assistant caregivers, however then indicated that she was not sure who all had keys. When I questioned Ms. VanBuskirk how she did not know which staff member all have keys, she responded that she trusts her staff and is pretty sure she knows who have keys.
I then spoke with Assistant Caregiver, Lisa Evans, from the preschool 1 classroom. Ms. Evans indicated that the extra suites were used in order to do an Easter Egg hunt because it was raining outside. She stated that Ms. Van Buskirk advised her and the other preschool classroom to use it. I asked Ms. Evans who unlocked the suite door and she stated that she went to get the key from Ms. VanBuskirk to unlock the door. I asked Ms. Evans if she had keys to the center building and she stated that she has an outside building key to unlock the outside doors, however she is not sure if that key also unlocks the extra suite doors.
I spoke with Assistant Caregiver, Heather Franklin, regarding use of the extra suites. Ms. Franklin stated that the suites were used in the middle of the week and believes it was Wednesday 4/4/18 and Thursday 4/5/18. Ms. Franklin indicated that it was raining outside and Ms. VanBuskirk told the preschool 1 and preschool 2 classrooms they could use it for indoor play. Ms. Franklin stated that they took balls, ribbons, and scooters down to the suites for use. I asked Ms. Franklin who unlocked the door and she stated that Ms. VanBuskirk has the key and believes she unlocked it. Ms. Franklin denied unlocking the door herself and stated that the key she has works to unlock the main door. Ms. Franklin stated that she knows that her key does not work to unlock the extra suites and stated that is done by a separate key.
I completed another unannounced on-site inspection on 05/09/2018 from 11:00 to 11:45 AM. I spoke with Ms. VanBuskirk who stated she now does recall a rainy day when the preschool classrooms wanted to do an Easter Egg hunt and that she had given the assistant caregivers permission to use the extra suite. The extra suite was then used on a second occasion, to use the large parachute, and Ms. VanBuskirk indicated that she did not give the staff permission to use it. I asked Ms. VanBuskirk who would have provided the keys and opened the suite door. She stated that she does not know who opened the door and suggested that the staff member took the keys off her desk. I questioned how and why staff would come in and take keys off her desk without permission. Ms. VanBuskirk again indicated that she trusts her staff, but maybe they took them when she was in the bathroom. I shared with Ms. VanBuskirk that the Ms. Evans and Ms. Franklin both stated that the key they have to open the center does not open the extra suite and that they either obtained the key from her or that she opened the door. Ms. VanBuskirk stated that they may not know that their keys open the extra suite door and denied that she provided them with the key on the second occasion to use the suite.”
What stands out in this narrative of this investigation is the fact that Chris’s stories regarding who has keys kept changing. Additionally, the fact that Chris denied telling the staff to use the space, whereas the staff claims she advised them to use it.
The report’s analysis of this particular violation was that “Ms. VanBuskirk admitted that on one occasion, that she was aware of, the center utilized one suite that was no longer approved for child care use, during the month of April 2018.”
Here are the details from the report regarding the investigation pertaining to the “emergency exit doors” being “blocked with equipment”:
“I spoke with the complainant on 04/16/2018 wo stated that in the latchkey and preschool classrooms there is a tent that is used for ‘alone time’ that is placed in front of the back-emergency exit doors, ultimately blocking the exit. The complainant stated that the ‘alone time’ tent is a place for the children to go to if they are upset and need some quiet time. In addition to the tent blocking the exit, the children will lean up against the door causing the door to open. The complainant stated that this has occurred at least 3-4 times and there is a concern for safety and children exiting the door.
I completed an unannounced, on-site inspection on 04/18/2018, arriving to the center at 11:15 AM and first observed the toddler room. The children were eating lunch and there were cots placed for nap time. I observed there to be a cot blocking the front door exit.
I then spoke with Assistant Caregiver, Lisa Evans, who works in the preschool 1 classroom. Ms. Evans stated that there was previously a “calm down box” that was located in the back of the room, off to the side from the back-exit door. She stated that this space has books and sensory bottles and was a place for a child to go to if they were upset. Ms. Evans stated that the box was wrecked and has been gone for a few months. Ms. Evans denied that this box was placed in front of the emergency exit door and blocking the means of egress.
I then spoke with Assistant Caregiver, Heather Franklin, who works in the preschool 2 classroom. During my on-site inspection, I did observe there to be a fabric tent in the preschool 2 classroom in front of the back-exit door. Ms. Franklin stated that the tent is used as a calm down area for the children who need it. She stated that it does not have a permanent spot, but rather gets moved around the room. The tent was folded up and moved during my inspection.”
What stands out in this narrative is the observance of exits to the rooms being blocked.
The report’s analysis of this particular violation was that “Means of egress in the infant and preschool room were not maintained in an unobstructed, easily traveled condition during my on-site inspection on 04/18/2018.”
As far as the “additional findings” go, here is what the investigation report said about that:
“During my on-site inspection on 04/18/2018, I observed the caregiver to child ratio in the toddler room to be 5:17. Ms. VanBuskirk indicated that the age range of children in the toddler room is 16 months to 3 years. We discussed that the group size for children who are 30 months of age until 3 years is a maximum of 16 children. Ms. VanBuskirk stated that she was told by someone in licensing that if she had 2 well-defined spaces then she can have two separate groups of eight children. She indicated that she thought that the room was licensed for up to 18 children, however only wanted it to be approved for up to 16 children. Ms. VanBuskirk indicated that the toddler room tends to be a big transition room and on that day there was one child, who was in the infant room and transitioning, that was in the toddler room for just a little bit. Ms. VanBuskirk indicated that she has one lead caregiver in the toddler room.”
The report’s analysis of this particular violation was that “On 04/18/2018, the toddler room, which accommodates children ages 16 months to 3 years of age, was not in compliance with the maximum group size of 16 children. During my on-site inspection on 04/18/2018, the caregiver to child ratio was 5:17.”
The report concludes noting that “Upon receipt of an acceptable corrective action plan, I recommend no change in the license status.”
[Note: On LARA, the date of the document is listed as 7/27/18].
December 7, 2018- Child Left Unsupervised
The third “Special Investigations Report,” filed on December 7, 2018, contained one- albeit MAJOR- allegation that reads: “The center self-reported that on 10/3/2018 Child A (3-year-old, female) was left unsupervised in the classroom.”
Here are the details from the report on this investigation:
“On 10/4/2018 I spoke with Licensee Designee and Program Director, Christina VanBuskirk who self-reported the incident. Ms. VanBuskirk indicated that the incident occurred on 10/3/2018 at approximately 3:18 PM and that she was not present at the center at that time. Ms. VanBuskirk reported that Child A was left unsupervised, in the Preschool 1Classroom, for less than one minute. Ms. VanBuskirk indicated that she had spoken with the Lead Caregiver, Lisa Evans, as well as Child A’s Mother and would email the details of those conversations. Ms. VanBuskirk submitted the details of the center’s internal investigation, which indicated that there were two assistant caregivers in the Preschool 1 Classroom, Ms. Lisa Evans and Ms. Alyce Carl. The classroom had eleven children present at 2:50 PM. At 2:54 PM Ms. Carl, arrived at the center. Child B (3-year-old female) was then added to the classroom, which brought the total to 12 children. The addition of Child B was not communicated between Ms. Carl and Ms. Evans. At approximately 3:10 PM, Ms. Carl took eight children outside, while Ms. Evans remained in the classroom as the remainder of the children got ready. Ms. Evans believed that she had 3 children with her, when she actually had 4. Around 3:18 PM, Ms. Evans then took 3 children outside. Assistant Caregiver, Jennifer Kern, was walking into the building at approximately 3:19 PM and saw Child A come out of the bathroom. Ms. Kern then took Child A outside to Ms. Evans.
Ms. VanBuskirk indicated that the center has taken the following steps: 1) Ms. Evans was placed on a three-day suspension and is reviewing policies on active supervision, Licensing Technical Assistance on Care and Supervision, 2) An immediate staff training is to be held on 10/8/18 to review active supervision, name to face training, attendance policies and children arriving late in the day, and 3) a review of all policies and procedures on active supervision will be done and staff will be given the opportunity to ask questions to ensure they understand the training that was provided.
On 10/09/2018, I spoke with Child A’s Mother who stated that Ms. Evans notified her of the incident after she picked up her daughter around 4:30 PM. Child A’s Mother indicated that Ms. Evans informed her that they were getting ready to go outside in the afternoon and that she (Ms. Evans) announced for everyone to go the bathroom and then line up. Child A’s Mother stated that her daughter was still in the bathroom while the rest lined up and went outside. Child A’s Mother indicated that she does not know how long Child A was left unsupervised, however Ms. Evans told her that it was less than one minutes and that another teacher in the joining room saw Child A standing alone. Child A’s Mother stated that she is disappointed that the teachers do not do a head count when they go outside, that a final check of the room and bathrooms is not done prior, and that there is not a teacher at the front and back of the line when they leave the room. Child A’s Mother stated that her daughter had told her that she scared while she was alone. Child A’s Mother indicated that she had called the center on 10/5/2018 to speak to Ms. VanBuskirk who ultimately answered the phone and stated that she was just picking up the phone to contact her. Child A’s Mother stated that she has not had previous supervision concerns with the center, however Ms. VanBuskirk told her that there was going to be disciplinary action taken against Ms. Evans. Child A remains enrolled in the center.
I completed an unannounced, on-site inspection on 10/15/18 from 10:00 AM to 10:30 AM. I first spoke with Licensee and Program Director, Christina VanBuskirk, who confirmed that she was not present when the incident had occurred and learned about it from Ms. Evans. Ms. VanBuskirk indicated that there was a building wide training and that Ms. Evan was suspended for 3 days. Ms. VanBuskirk stated that there were 11 children present in the classroom all day until approximately 2:54 PM while Child B was added by Ms. Carl. I asked Ms. VanBuskirk how Ms. Evans was not made aware that Child B was present, and she stated that parents first sign children into the main computer in the office, then teachers greet and sign them into their classroom attendance when they get to the classroom. Ms. VanBuskirk indicated that there was a disconnect because that communication between Ms. Carl and Ms. Evans did not take place.
I then spoke with Assistant Caregiver, Jennifer Kern, who indicated that she has been employed by the center for approximately one month and works in the Preschool 2 Classroom. Ms. Kern confirmed that she was the one who found Child A in the Preschool 1 Classroom. Ms. Kern indicated that she was outside with her classroom at 3:00 PM and that she saw Ms. Carl leave the building with five or six children and then she saw Ms. Evans come out around 3:18-3:20 PM. Ms. Kern indicated that she brought her children in to use the bathroom and when she looked towards the center’s window she saw Child A standing in Preschool 1. Ms. Kern stated that she asked Child A where her ‘big person was, and Child A said she just came out of the potty’. Ms. Kern stated that Child A was not crying and that she looked ‘puzzled’. Ms. Kern then took Child A out to Ms. Evans, whom started to cry when she saw Child A.
On 11/16/2018, I spoke with Lead Caregiver of Preschool 1 Classroom, Lisa Evans, who stated that she had a count of 11 children in the classroom all day. She stated that at 3:00 PM on 11/3/2018, the classroom was getting ready to go outside when the afternoon assistant caregiver, Ms. Carl, arrived to work. Ms. Evans stated that she had Ms. Carl take some of the children out first. Ms. Carl then told her ‘I have 8’, to which Ms. Evans said she responded ‘okay, I have 3’. Ms. Evans stated that she was not expecting Child B to be in attendance that day and was not aware that Ms. Carl had signed Child B in on the computerized office attendance. Ms. Evans stated that the addition of Child B increased the classroom count to 12 children and that Ms. Carl did not communicate with her that she had Child B with her as one of the children going outside.
Ms. Evans stated that she then left around 3:18 PM to go outside to the nature center and passed Ms. Kern on her way, who was walking back to the center with the Preschool 2 Classroom. Ms. Evans indicated that she got to the nature center and Ms. Kern came walking out with Child A. Ms. Evans stated that she ‘broke down because she felt badly and knew it was seriously wrong to leave a child in the class’. Ms. Evans stated that she then spoke with Child A’s Mother and informed her of the incident. Ms. Evans indicated that she takes all the responsibility for the situation and that she miscounted. She stated that she should have conducted a name to face count and thoroughly checked the room more before leaving out. Ms. Evans stated that since this incident there has been a center training where they learned how to do name to face, thoroughly do head counts, and that when you arrive to a destination to count the children again.
I then spoke with Assistant Caregiver, Alyce Carl, who stated that she worked for the center for approximately 6 months, however, is no longer employed. Ms. Carl stated that she was assigned to the Preschool 1 Classroom and typically worked in the afternoon shift. Ms. Carl stated that she arrived to work around 2:30 PM on 10/3/2018 and signed Child B into Preschool 2 Classroom and then went over to Preschool 1. Ms. Carl stated that when she arrived to Preschool 1, Ms. Evans asked her to take 8 children outside. Ms. Carl stated that she thought Ms. Evans had 3 children remain with her, but she did not count. Ms. Carl stated that she took her 8 children and went to the nature center and about 10 minutes later Ms. Evans came out with 3 children. Ms. Carl stated that she does not remember exact time frames, but ’it seemed like within 5 minutes’ another teacher came out and said, ‘you forgot someone’ and at that time Ms. Evans broke down.
I questioned Ms. Carl regarding her signing Child B into Preschool 2 Classroom because the Rollcall Sheet I was provided indicated that Child B was signed into Preschool 1 Classroom. Ms. Carl was stated that Child B was signed into Preschool 2. I asked Ms. Carl regarding the claim that it was the addition of Child B into the classroom and lack of communication between she and Ms. Evans that brought the count up to 12 children. Ms. Carl denied that claim and stated that Child B was in Preschool 2. Ms. Carl indicated that when children are lined up to transition to go outside, there is not a name to face check, nor is there a roll call check. Ms. Carl stated that the center does not practice enough name to face for the children to know each other or who the teachers are. She stated that the children are lined up and just counted and taken outside.
I reviewed the Rollcall Sheet for Preschool 1 as provided by the center. On 10/03/2018, at approximately 3:00 PM it is documented that there are 13 children signed into Preschool 1. Child B is signed into preschool 1. I then requested a copy of attendance for Preschool 2, which does not reflect Child B. I spoke with Ms. VanBuskirk on 12/03/2018 who indicated that Child B was signed into Preschool 1 and that the initial computerized attendance in the office reflects that. Ms. VanBuskirk submitted the computerized attendance sign in which reflects that Child B was signed into Preschool 1 at 2:54 PM.
On 12/06/2018 I spoke with Ms. VanBuskirk again regarding the attendance and that Preschool 1 reflects 13 children and not 11 as indicated by herself and Ms. Evans. Ms. VanBuskirk and I reviewed the Preschool 1 attendance and she understood where the number 13 was now showing. Ms. VanBuskirk indicate that she wanted to look at the computerized attendance to see if anyone was signed out early because Ms. Evans was adamant that she had 11 children all day. Ms. VanBuskirk stated that attendance she provided me is a Rollcall and shows the children that the teachers are to be expecting and when they arrive their name is highlighted. However, the exact time and in out is logged on the computerized program in the office. Ms. VanBuskirk then contacted me to and stated after review of Preschool 1 and 2 attendance, she noticed that Child C was signed into Preschool 2 as a transition child. I expressed concern to Ms. VanBuskirk that the different attendance practices that the center is utilizing is creating a disconnect, especially when children are moved to a different classroom and it is not noted properly.”
What stood out to us the most- aside from a child being let unsupervised- was that Chris self-reported the incident.
The analysis from the report notes that “Appropriate supervision was not provided to Child A on 10/3/2018 when she was left alone and unsupervised in the classroom.”
Interestingly, with this Special Investigations Report, it was recommended that there be a “modification of the current status of the license to first provisional” meaning that the daycare license was no longer regular and, rather, provisional. Michigan’s legislature defines a provisional license in the following manner: “means a license issued to a child care organization that is temporarily unable to conform to the rules promulgated under this act.”
[Note: On LARA, the date of the document is listed as 2/22/19].
March 7, 2019- Discipline
The fourth “Special Investigations Report,” filed on March 7, 2019, pertains to discipline. Specifically, it notes a “rule violation” was found related to discipline. It mentions the discipline code which states “(1) Positive methods of discipline that encourage self- control, self-direction, self-esteem, and cooperation shall be used.”
Unfortunately, this report does not offer any further details on what the allegations were.
[Note: On LARA, the date of the document is listed as 4/13/19].
October 7, 2019- Wet Children, Child Left Alone, and Allegations About Chris’s Husband
The fifth “Special Investigations Report,” filed on October 7, 2019, contains the following allegations:
- “Staff are smoking behind the building and in sight of the children playing.”
- “Child A (3-year-old, female) had obtained an injury at the center, however the center did not inform her guardian, but rather put incident reports in the child’s cubicle without any discussion.”
- “On numerous occasions when Child A was picked up, she was in different clothing. When Child A’s guardian questioned the assistant caregiver, she was told that Child A was found playing in the toilet and got wet.”
- “Child B (3-year-old, male) was left outside in the parking lot and found by Child C’s Father. This occurred in October 2018 and was not reported to licensing by the center.”
- “Additional Findings.”
While the report did not find the first 2 allegations (“staff smoking” and “Child A obtaining an injury that the center did not inform her guardian” of) to be in violation, the next three they did.
Here are the details from the report pertaining to the allegation that “On numerous occasions when Child A was picked up, she was in different clothing. When Child A’s guardian questioned the assistant caregiver, she was told that Child A was found playing in the toilet and got wet.”:
“On 07/26/2019, I spoke with Child A’s guardian who reported that Child A was enrolled in the center in approximately May 2018 and last attending sometime in March 2019. Child A was enrolled in the preschool classroom and stated that her main caregiver was Assistant Caregiver, Lisa Evans. On several occasions, Child A’s guardian, reported that upon pick up Child A would be wearing different clothing that what she had upon drop off and when she asked why, she was told because Child A was found in the bathroom playing in the toilet and was wet.
I spoke with Lead Caregiver, Lisa Evans, regarding Child A needing to have her clothes changed due to playing in the toilet. Ms. Evans admitted that Child A would be found playing in the toilet and sink. Ms. Evans also confirmed that they had to talk to Child A’s guardian regarding her playing in the toilet and the sink which would be the reason for her change in clothes. Ms. Evans stated that Child A ‘did play in the toilet a lot’. Ms. Evans stated that since Child A enjoyed playing in the water so much, they would do more water table activities with her and if Child A’s clothes got to wet, they would simply change them. During the 9/24/2019 Exit Conference with Ms. VanBuskirk the issue regarding Child A playing in the toilet and sink was discussed. Ms. VanBuskirk stated that she was unaware this was an issue with Child A.”
The report’s analysis of this particular allegation was that “Appropriate care and supervision was not provided to Child A when she was found by Ms. Evans, alone, playing in the toilet or sink.”
Here are the details from the report about the allegation that “Child B (3-year-old, male) was left outside in the parking lot and found by Child C’s Father. This occurred in October 2018 and was not reported to licensing by the center.”:
“On 07/29/2019 I asked Ms. VanBuskirk if there was an incident involving Child B being found by another parent. Ms. VanBuskirk initially indicated that she was ‘not recalling anything’. I then read to her the allegations that Child B was left outside in the parking lot and found by Child C’s Father. Ms. VanBuskirk then denied that Child B was found by Child C’s Father and stated that Child B was walking back in with his classroom but was on the grass. Ms. VanBuskirk stated that Child B had let go of the bug rope while his class was coming in. I asked Ms. VanBuskirk who the caregivers were for Child B and she first stated that she did not recall, but then stated it was Sherri Johnson and that she believed Ms. Johnson visually saw Child B let go of the bug rope, went to him, and brought him in. Ms. VanBuskirk did confirm that Child C’s Father was in the office that day.
I then spoke with Assistant Caregiver, Sherri Johnson, who stated that she has been employed by the center for the last 4 years and in the toddler room. Ms. Johnson stated that she is familiar with Child B, although he is no longer enrolled. I asked her if she recalls an incident with him and the outdoor play area and she state that she did, however, did not recall the exact date but that it was a while ago. Ms. Johnson stated that she was done with her shift for the day and walking out when a parent (whose name she did not know) was in the parking lot, got her attention by telling her that a someone is still outside. Ms. Johnson indicated that when she peered over, she saw Child B near the grass at the end of the outdoor play area and did not see anyone else. She confirmed that Child B was outside alone, however did know how long he had been out alone. Ms. Johnson stated that she proceeded to go get Child B and brought him back into the center. She stated that she took Child B into the office and to Ms. VanBuskirk. Ms. Johnson stated that herself and Ms. VanBuskirk then took Child B back to the classroom and when they entered the room the children were washing their hands. I asked Ms. Johnson who the caregivers were at the time and she stated Kelsey Schmidlin and Yvi Adams. I also asked Ms. Johnson what their response was when she and Ms. VanBuskirk brought Child B back to the classroom and she stated that she recalls them being confused and talking about who was responsible for having Child B on the bug rope to come in.
Ms. Johnson then provided this written statement to the events involving Child B:
‘I was checking out for the day and walking outside when a parent stopped me and said he saw a child on the outside. Saw child took him back to classroom class was already inside washing hands. Child B, Chris, and myself walked back to classroom ask them what happened the teachers didn’t realize he wasn’t with them. I left for the day Chris said she would call if she had any questions.’
I then asked Ms. VanBuskirk for the contact information for Assistant Caregiver, Kelsey Schmidlin and Yvi Adams. Ms. VanBuskirk provided the information, however noted that Ms. Adams is still employed, however as a sub as she is only needed from time to time. Ms. Adams date of hire was 08/16/2018. Ms. VanBuskirk stated that Ms. Schmidlin was employed by the center from 09/09/18 to 11/17/18. Ms. VanBuskirk also provided the contact information for Child C’s Father.
I then contacted Assistant Caregiver, Kelsey Schmidlin by telephone on 07/29/2019. She confirmed that she worked at the center in the toddler room, along with assistant caregivers Yvi Adams and Sherri Johnson. Ms. Schmidlin stated that she did recall an incident with Child B. Ms. Schmidlin indicated that she and Ms. Adams were outside with the children and getting ready to come in. Ms. Schmidlin shared that she told Ms. Adams that they had 8 children, but that Ms. Adams argued that they only had 7. Ms. Schmidlin stated that she was still in training at the time so said okay and went along with it. Ms. Schmidlin stated that they had made it all the way back to class without Child B and that he was outside alone, and she believed that it was ‘the owner’, Chris, who brought him back to the classroom. Ms. Schmidlin does not recall what Ms. VanBuskirk said. Ms. Schmidlin was unsure as to the time frame of the incident happening but stated that the weather was kind of warm/cool because the children had jackets. Ms. Schmidlin was also unsure as to how long Child B was left alone and unsupervised. I asked Ms. Schmidlin the process for transitioning in form the outside and she stated that they use the bug rope to line the children up on and for them to hold onto. There is a caregiver at the front and one at the back. However, she stated that issue with Child B was that of miscounting the children. She indicated that when Child B was brought back to the classroom, Ms. Adams made the comment that she thought he had left, which is why she thought there were 7 children. Ms. Schmidlin does not know what happened next with regards to notifying the parents as Ms. VanBuskirk indicated that she would handle it.
I then contacted Child C’s Father by telephone on 07/29/2019. Child C’s Father stated that he does recall the incident, but that it was last fall and did not know the exact date. He stated that it was around 4:00 PM when he went to pick up Child C and saw a child over on the grass by the outdoor play area. He stated that it was a boy just standing there alone, looking around, and was not upset. Child C’s Father stated that upon entering the center he told Ms. VanBuskirk that there was ‘a little guy out there’. He described Ms. VanBuskirk to be shocked and said okay, thank you. At that point Child C’s Father stated that as he was telling Ms. VanBuskirk about the incident, Child B was being recovered by a caregiver. Child C’s Father stated that he did not know who the caregiver was, just that it was a female whom he had seen at the center before. He stated that the caregiver then walked into the office area with the boy at which time he was leaving with Child C and did not know anything further or what happened next.
I then contacted Child B’s Mother by telephone on 07/30/2019. She stated that to her understanding the incident involving her son was that he was left outside on the playground, by himself. Child B’s Mother confirmed that the playground was the one across the parking lot from the center. Child B’s Mother stated that it was due to this incident that she disenrolled her child. I asked Child B’s Mother if she was notified regarding the incident and she stated that she was, however that it was awhile, almost a week, after it had happened. I asked Child B’s Mother when the incident occurred and how she knows she was notified a week after the fact. She stated that she could not recall exactly when, but that it must have been around November/December 2018 because that is when she disenrolled her child. Child B’s Mother stated that she recalls her biggest frustration was that she was notified after the fact but could not recall dates. Child B’s Mother stated that Ms. VanBuskirk called her on a day that she happened to be home with Child B and told her she needed to talk with her. Child B’s Mother stated that she actually went into the center to speak with Ms. VanBuskirk. Child B’s Mother stated that she was told that there was an issue when Child B was left in the park by himself, for under 30 seconds. Child B’s Mother stated that she was told that the class had just got to their classroom door when they saw him, hiding in the tunnel. Child B’s Mother stated that Ms. VanBuskirk was very apologetic and state that they were taking the matter very seriously and that there was going to be a training around the issue. I asked Child B’s Mother who the caregivers were at the time and she state that she could not remember and that that caregivers changed so often.
I then contacted Assistant Caregiver, Yvi Adams, by telephone on 07/30/2019. Ms. Adams indicated that no longer considers herself an employee of the center. I asked regarding her subbing and she stated that she has only done so one time. I asked Ms. Adams if she recalled an incident involving Child B being left unsupervised on the playground and she stated that she “did not recall anything”. I asked Ms. Adams was shift she worked, and she stated that she flip flopped shifts, but mainly in the pm and a closer. I asked her if anyone, other caregivers or Ms. VanBuskirk mentioned anything to her regarding an incident with Child B and she again said that she did not recall anything.”
What stands out from this report is Chris’s initial inability to recall anything, even though all of the other accounts seem to distinctly recall her involvement. Additionally, it’s disturbing that the parents were not notified immediately about the incident.
The report’s analysis of this allegation was that “Appropriate care and supervision was not provided to Child B when he was left unsupervised in the outdoor play area in Fall 2018.”
This Special Investigations Report notes the following additional findings:
“During my investigation it was discovered that the center did not make a verbal report to the department within 24 hours of Child B being left unsupervised, nor did was a written report submitted within 72 hours. During the 09/24/2019 Exit Conference, Ms. VanBuskirk indicated that she did not report this to licensing because she did not recall Child B to have been unsupervised and alone and in the outdoor play area. Ms. VanBuskirk stated that from her recollection, Child B had let go of the bug rope while on his way back in the building with his class.
This was immediately noticed by an assistant caregiver and he was not outside alone. I shared with Ms. VanBuskirk that during my investigation and interviews with Ms. Johnson, Ms. Schmidlin, and Child C’s Father the information shared form them were that Child B was outside and alone.
Additionally, in my contact with Child B’s Mother she had indicated that it was due to this incident that Child B was ultimately disenrolled from the center.”
The report’s analysis of this was that “The center did not make a verbal report to the department within 24 hours of Child B being left unsupervised in the outdoor play area in the fall of 2018.”
Finally- and interestingly, the first time Chris’s husband, Tim, is ever mentioned- happened in a note in this report that reads the following: “Additional allegations were made, however were not investigated as they did not fall under the scope of licensing rules or the law. Such allegations were related to the licensee’s husband presence at the center, concerns with how payments to the Department of Health and Human Services are being submitted. Allegation that the hours and times submitted for payment are not accurate, Children moving up from one room to the another when they may not be developmentally, socially, or emotionally ready, and that the center enrolls children with special needs. Additionally, that the toddler room door is being propped open (This has been investigated previously investigated in 2015D0351009). Subsequent inspections to the center have not witnessed this violation. Ms. VanBuskirk was made aware of these additional allegations during the 7/29/2019 onsite inspection.”
While it doesn’t mention anything specific about Tim, it’s easy to infer what the “allegations” were. It’s also, frankly, disturbing that these allegations weren’t looked into due to them “not falling under the scope of licensing rules or the law.” Even if these allegations didn’t fall under licensing law, how were they not reported somewhere where they would be investigated? Why were they, as this report makes it sound, brushed under the rug?
The recommendation as a result of this report was the following: “Upon receipt of an acceptable corrective action plan, I continue to recommend modification of the current status of the license to first provisional as originally recommended in Special Investigation 2019D0351011, dated 12/07/2018.”
[Note: On LARA, the date of the document is listed as 10/27/19].
November 7, 2019- Pants Pulled Down, Staff Member Touching Children
The sixth “Special Investigations Report,” filed on November 7, 2019, contained the following very serious allegations:
- “Unknown boys pulled down the pants of Child A (3-year-old, female).”
- “Assistant Caregiver (redacted) who the children refer to as (redacted) rubs the back of Child A and Child B (3-year- old, female) at naptime. Child A and B have made concerning statements regarding (redacted).”
The report notes that they did not find the center to be in violation of either of these allegations upon their investigation.
[Note: On LARA, the date of the document is listed as 12/1/19].
March 30, 2020- A Child Dragged
A “Corrective Action Plan” submitted by Chris was approved on March 30, 2020.
It notes that on January 7th, 2019, a noncompliance was observed, specifically explaining that “A positive methods of discipline to encourage cooperation was not used with Child A on 01/07/2019 when she was dragged from the dramatic play area to the green table.”
The plan to correct that was approved was described in the following manner: “The center re-wrote their discipline policy to include the request of hands-free guidance and to address the issues of calling parents if a child was behaving in a way that was unsafe, harmful to self or other. Staff were trained on the discipline policy at a staff meeting on 01/22/2019 and were all give a copy of the discipline policy. A policy was sent home with all families and added to the handbook on the website. Staff will be overseen and guided by lead teachers, Assistant Director, and Director for compliance of discipline policy.”
[Note: On LARA, the date of the document is listed as 4/14/20].
March 30, 2020- Children Playing In The Toilet, Unattended
A “Corrective Action Plan” submitted by Chris was approved on March 30, 2020.
The plan derails each of the following noncompliances that were observed and the plan to correct each one.
The first noncompliance was “Appropriate care and supervision was not provided to Child A when she was found, along, playing in the toilet or sink.”
The plan to correct this was “The center will continue their commitment to watch each child as they use the bathroom so they remain supervised. If a child gets wet from intentional or accidental water mishaps, caregiver will clean child and give dry clothes, and will inform the parent.”
The second noncompliance was “Appropriate care and supervision was not provided to Child B when he was left unsupervised in the outdoor play area in Fall 2018.”
The plan to correct this was “Compliance can be achieved to existing policies. To avoid child being out of sight, caregivers will adhere to the protocol and maintain compliance by continuing to train staff to use ‘tadpoles’ an electronic system used for keeping accurate head counts.”
The third noncompliance was “The center did not make a verbal report to the department within 24 hours of Child B being left unsupervised in the outdoor play area in the fall of 2018.”
The plan to correct this was “Compliance can be achieved now that the director has a clearer and more thorough understanding of this rule. Each time a child requires assistance due to a potential injury, moving forward the director will self- report to licensing verbally within 24 hours.”
The fourth noncompliance was “The center did not submit a written report to the department within 72 hours of Child B being left unsupervised in the outdoor play area in the fall of 2018.”
The plan to correct this was “Compliance will be achieved by the director making a written report to licensing of the occurrence of a lost or unsupervised child, within 72 hours of the verbal report to licensing.”
It should be noted that these items all seem to refer to previous things mentioned in the Special Investigations Reports.
[Note: On LARA, the date of the document is listed as 4/14/20].
March 30, 2020- Child Left Alone
A “Corrective Action Plan” submitted by Chris was approved on March 30, 2020.
The noncompliance observed is noted as “Appropriate supervision was not provided to Child A on 10/03/2018 when she was left alone and unsupervised in the classroom.”
The plan to correct was explained as “Training was held on 10/04/2018 with lead teacher and it was discovered that more name to face training and teacher to teacher communication techniques. A new policy was devised on Active Supervision, Name to Face, and Attendance of children and accurate documentation and communication and staff were trained.”
[Note: On LARA, the date of the document is listed as 4/14/20].
We spoke to Baltierra again and reviewed the documents we had gone through with her.
“The more and more I learn about what as going on at Cozy Care, the more shocked, disgusted, appalled, and enraged I have become,” Baltierra began with sharing.
“As I previously stated,” Baltierra continued, “we sent Nova there- and put our trust in them- due to their excellent ratings. Tyler ended up suggesting we pull Nova because she wasn’t coming home with lots of artwork, projects, etc- and THANK GOD we pulled her. I shudder to think of what may have happened if we had not.”
So what did Baltierra think about the reports that we went through?
“Reading through these Special Investigation Reports has only filled me with more fear about what goes on there,” Baltierra stated. “What kind of daycare center leaves kids unsupervised, lets them play in areas that are unfenced (and then tries to beat around the bush when it gets reported), drags a child, and, worst of all, has an owner married to a Registered Sex Offender that many have confirmed has been present around the kids?”
Baltierra had more to say, adding that “What’s just as unnerving is that, in one of these reports, it notes that there were allegations made related to ‘the licensee’s husband’s presence at the center’- meaning that this had been brought up to the state previously. And they say they ‘were not investigated as they did not fall. Under the scope of licensing rules or the law.’ Really? They don’t fall under the law? Registered sex offenders alleged to be around buildings where children are present- and, even worse, alleged to be IN and AROUND the buildings with said children doesn’t fall in the scope of the law? Not to mention the fact that someone said yesterday they tried to alert the media of the issue with Chris’s husband a few years back and it fell on deaf ears.”
“What is going on in this town, this county, this state, and this country?” Baltierra questioned. “THIS IS NOT OKAY.”
Baltierra shared her plans going forward regarding this situation, explaining that “I am going to see this through and I am working my damndest to ensure that this facility gets closed down. How it’s been allowed to operate so long in the manner it has- and with Chris’s husband allegedly continuing to be around children- is beyond me. But it’s time we take action and work together to protect our children.”
“This is not the last I will be speaking out on this issue,” Baltierra elaborated, “and I am working hard to use my platform to be a positive advocate for this. If I can help ONE parent not send their child there, ONE kid not be POTENTIALLY in harm’s way, I am doing my job. But I won’t sleep until this place is shut once and for all. Too much has gone down here and, while many have turned a blind eye, I refuse to do so.”
“Stay tuned,” Baltierra wrapped with saying, “as there will be more coming from me on this.”
Cozy Corner Speaks
In the wake of all of these reports emerging, a statement has surfaced online from Chris.
Here is the statement in full:
“Cozy Corner stands behind its reputation to bring the highest quality of care and education for the families of St. Clair County. I have been the owner and Program Director for 21 years and have supported children in the community. The center has worked extremely hard to earn a 5-star rating through Great Start to Quality. Yes, I am married to a man on the PSOR, but that has in no way effected the care or safety of the children that attend the childcare center. My husband nor any other PSOR person has even been permitted to come to the center while the children are present under any circumstances. Mr. VanBuskirk was put on the registry in 1994. The center became licensed in 1999 with full discloser of my husband to Licensing through the state of Michigan. Many staff and parents can attest to the fact that they have never seen him at the center. The information on Face Book and the news media is false and has not been fact checked. Cozy Corner follows all rules set up by the state of Michigan for Licensing and Regulatory Affairs. Myself and my staff will continue to provide a safe environment for children to learn in. I will continue to support families and give them a safe place to bring their child while they work to provide for their families. I will stand in my truth, as a Christian businesswoman of St Clair County. What then shall we say to all these things? If God is for us, who can be against us. Romans 8:31- Chris Vanbuskirk.”
Here is a copy of the statement:
Photos Have Surfaced
While Chris did claim Tim was not permitted to come to the center while children were present, photos today have surfaced on an Instagram account that seem to show otherwise.
Three photos have been posted. Here are the timestamps of the three photos:
- May 31, 2019 3:50 PM
- May 29, 2019 9:47 AM
- May 29, 2019 9:47 AM
Looking at the calendar, May 29, 2019 was a Wednesday and May 31, 2019 was a Friday. Since they’re weekdays, that would indicate they would likely be days when the Cozy Corner Child Care was open.
Here are screenshots of the posts from @throughmyeyesmi: