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Daycare worker charged with child abuse posts bail, TMJ4 confronts her at her Waukesha home

Heather Miller, 48, worked with infants at The Lawrence School on Saylesville Road in Waukesha.
Posted at 5:22 PM, Sep 16, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-16 18:22:07-04

WAUKESHA, Wis. — A daycare worker in Waukesha posted her $6,000 bail Friday after being charged with two felony counts of child abuse.

A TMJ4 news crew confronted Heather Miller, 48, at her home in Waukesha. She was in her backyard with two other women. Miller declined to comment on the investigation or allegations against her.

Miller worked with infants at The Lawrence School on Saylesville Road in Waukesha.

According to a criminal complaint, Miller held a baby face down in a crib until he appeared to struggle to breathe. She was taken into custody Wednesday.

The Lawrence School’s website says Miller is a mother of two who has worked in child care for more than 25 years. It says she studied Elementary and Early Childhood Education at UW-Lacrosse.

Parents have called TMJ4 saying they recognized problems with Miller’s care at other facilities she’s worked at in the past, both in Waukesha and Oconomowoc.

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TMJ4 called and emailed the State Department of Child and Family Services. They confirm they are investigating, but are not giving more specifics at this time.

“I just feel like this is a failure to protect and report what’s going on,” said Renee Martinez, whose children used to attend The Lawrence School.

Martinez raised a red flag about The Lawrence School years ago after she went to Waukesha police after she found out from another parent and teacher that her three-year-old son had been left outside alone for more than 30 minutes in December of 2018. She says the police advised her to talk to the owner of the school, Jim Hoeft.

Martinez felt that neither Hoeft nor the police took her concerns seriously enough. She did find out the teacher in question was let go.

“We have to protect our little ones, especially the ones who can’t speak for themselves,” said Martinez. “My son couldn’t tell me what happened to him that day. I had no idea. It makes me question how many other things have gone unreported and unchecked there.”

Hoeft has not returned our repeated calls for comment. The Lawrence School’s website says he opened the daycare in 2014 after nearly 30 years as a car salesman. In his bio, he says that he was inspired to change lives by working with children after his brother died suddenly. He shares this quote: “I'm happy to say at this point, if I left this world today, I have made a difference.”

The sudden closure of The Lawrence School as this investigation continues has a far-reaching impact on dozens of families. Many parents who relied on the facility for their child’s daily care, are scrambling to find other daycare options. Many nearby facilities already have long waiting lists. Parents we have talked to say they are devastated and disturbed by the allegations against the school, its owner, and a caregiver they trusted.

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