BILLINGS, Mont. (KTVU) - A mother is speaking out about how her daycare locked her 6-month-old son, Avery, inside the building for a while last week with no adult supervision.
On Tuesday, Tanaya Merchen said she is still so angry that she wants “anyone and everyone” to know about it so this “hopefully never happens again.”
According to Merchen, she left her job at a refinery as she does every weekday, and when she arrived at her son's daycare shortly before 5:45 p.m.on Friday, the doors to the Kids R Us daycare in Billings, Montana were locked. All the staff had gone home for the weekend.
“The whole building was dark,” she said. “I instantly panicked.”
She said she immediately called the on-site director for help. That director was not at the daycare when KTVU called on Tuesday seeking comment. A staff member at the daycare also had no comment and said that no one would be doing interviews anymore.
On Monday, daycare owner Kim Redding told TV station KULR8 that there was a miscommunication among staff members, which is how the baby was left alone at the end of the day.
Redding told the station: "She didn't know the staff said all the kids had gone. She said, ‘You guys go ahead and go and I'll vacuum.'"
But Merchen told a different story. The director had told her that a staff member had gotten sick and gone home early. Still, Merchen said that excuse makes no sense to her. Why wouldn't she have been called?
The director did meet Merchen at the daycare within minutes of her calling, and Merchen was able to get her son shortly after arriving. She was told he was only alone and unattended for about 30 minutes.
She also said the director texted her later to say that she put her new staff members on a 2-week probation and made them take a safety class. The director also assured Merchen that this has never happened before.
Merchen told her boss what happened, and he was so upset that he posted about it on Facebook, which ended up going viral. Others in the community started telling her their horror stories from the same daycare, she said.
In June 2017, the state of Montana said that the daycare run by Redding was not complying with the proper staff-to-child ratio. The licensing agency said that there were 10 children in care with one caregiver, when there should be two caregivers for this number of children. In 2016, another state inspection found that phone numbers of the parents and poison control were not listed by each telephone.
“I have not taken him back to that daycare since,” Merchen said.
This story was reported from Oakland, Calif.