OAK CREEK - Everything appeared to be fine when a mother dropped her five month old baby girl off at Children of America the morning of October 3, 2016. It was a much different story when she went to get her at the end of the day.
According to a criminal complaint, the baby cried when she was picked up or moved and was sleeping more than usual. When her mother touched her right arm, she screamed in pain. The mother then took the infant to Children's Hospital of Wisconsin.
Doctors found fractures in the upper right arm and lower left arm, which "may have occurred from bending, twisting, or yanking of the arm." The injuries "would have been extremely painful when [they] occurred and [the baby] would have immediately cried out in pain. A caregiver would have realized that something was wrong and that an injury had occurred, especially considering the continued crying [the baby] displayed when she was picked up. An appropriately concerned caregiver would have notified family and sought medical care."
The complaint goes on to state, "Overall, without a plausible explanation, these injuries are indicative of physical abuse."
Former employee Stephanie McPherson was charged in November with physical abuse of a child - recklessly cause great bodily harm, a felony that could land her fifteen years behind bars.
Police interviewed workers at the facility, who said the child seemed happy for the first part of the morning. One worker said she returned from a break around 11:30 a.m. to find the baby fussy and said she was "crying like she was upset and that something was not right."
Another employee said she heard loud screams while the baby was being fed and described them as "blood curdling."
McPherson told investigators she had been bouncing the child around, wiggling her, and dancing with her that morning when she started crying.
She told investigators, "I guess I did it too hard and didn't realize it."
McPherson told a co-worker "it was an overwhelming day and she didn't think [the child] liked her."
She later admitted "she probably had a breakdown because she was dealing with two to three new parents who were waiting in the hallway with a lot of questions. It was stressful and overwhelming at the time and that there were three new children in the room in one day."
McPherson had worked for Children of America for five years and stated she "understands that there is a difference between cries of hunger and sadness and pain."
The state Department of Children and Families revoked the facility's license in December, but it is allowed to stay open while it appeals the decision. However, it is not allowed to enroll any new children.
Parents who have children at the facility did not seem concerned about their safety.
"We actually came back to this daycare," said one mother. "We left and came back and I couldn't be happier here. I feel safe with child here, the teachers are amazing and I'm a pretty overprotective mom. I'm hoping this daycare stays around."
"I heard about it. My son has been going to this facility for about three months and so far so good," said one father. "I have not had any problems and I have not witnessed anything negative."
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