More than 70 Milwaukee day cares close doors due to safety, health violations since 2019

NOW: More than 70 Milwaukee day cares close doors due to safety, health violations since 2019

MILWAUKEE, Wis. (CBS 58) -- As parents across southeastern Wisconsin return to the office, they may be looking for child care centers to entrust with the care of their children. But not all are created equally.

CBS 58 News discovered some shocking safety and health violations that led Wisconsin day cares to close their doors.

In September, Enrique Curiel-Prado, now 73, sat in a Milwaukee County courtroom and listened as Judge David Borowski detailed his crimes to the public.

"Mr. Prado, this is terrible behavior. Good people don't touch children," the judge said.

Curiel-Prado pleaded guilty to child enticement and fourth degree sexual assault after he admitted to touching a 10-year-old child over her clothes. Court documents show Curiel-Prado said he was curious about what it would feel like to touch her. Milwaukee police officers later spoke with the child's 8-year-old sister, and she was identified as a victim, as well.

Through a translator, Curiel-Prado expressed remorse in the courtroom. He addressed the victims' family and his own.

"I want them to forgive me. I am sorry. Nothing like this has ever happened to me. And I am here, your honor," Curiel-Prado said through a translator.

Court documents show it happened back in 2020 at Los Pinos Family Daycare. 

Curiel-Prado's daughter operated the center near 36th and National in the Silver City neighborhood. Following the charges, the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families sent a letter revoking her license.

"When we revoke a child care provider's license, it's not something that we take very lightly. It is a very comprehensive review," said Gina Paige, communications director for the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families.

Paige can't discuss specific cases, but she said when a center receives a complaint, the state begins gathering information.

"Child care is a critical support for families. Parents need this so they can go to work, so they can go to school. And so we really want to see these centers succeed," Paige said.

But when a child's health or safety is at risk, the state takes action.

In the case of Curiel-Prado's daughter's license revocation, documents show the mom called the center claiming her two children were touched inappropriately by someone at the day care.

"The mother has to live with that as well: knowing that she thought they were going to be safe, and they weren't," said Emily Zimmel, assistant district attorney at the Milwaukee County District Attorney's Office.

In June, CBS 58 News filed an open records request for information on every license DCF has revoked for health or safety reasons since the beginning of 2019. Of the 86 day cares shut down in Wisconsin during that time frame, 71 were in Milwaukee. There were also day cares in Racine, Kenosha, West Allis, South Milwaukee and Menomonee Falls.

A handful of the centers had ongoing appeals this year.

"When we go to revoke a child care provider's license, there really isn't a one-size-fits-all," Paige said.

CBS 58 News combed through hundreds of pages of documents. Some of the most common reasons CBS 58 News found for day cares being shut down were:

  • providing false or misleading information to DCF
  • not keeping accurate attendance records
  • billing more hours than children actually attended or while the center was closed

There were also cases where someone associated with the day care center was accused or convicted of a crime.

State records show 29-year-old Brittany Cosey operated First Dreams Childcare Center near 46th and Locust, not far from Sherman Park.

DCF revoked Cosey's license after she was charged with 2nd degree reckless homicide. Her jury trial is set for January 2022.

Then CBS 58 News dove deeper into the license revocation letters and discovered some shocking violations at other centers:

  • One day care that was shut down after the owner left a two-year-old child at Walmart
  • Another owner admitted to placing packing tape over a child's mouth and reportedly bound together his wrists
  • In a different case, a day care owner kicked a father down the stairs, causing him to fall into the pregnant mother. Documents show the owner then pulled a knife on them, while children were inside the center. This all happened an hour after DCF came to investigate a complaint that family had made.

"All of our licensing visits typically are unannounced because this allows us to go in and see what that center is like on a daily basis," Paige said.

Paige said parents who are looking for a child care center should take a visit and talk to other parents there.

"Are children crying? What's the noise level? What's the teacher-child interaction in the language that they're using?" she said.

The state has nine child care resource and referral agencies that can help. Paige also recommends checking out the child care finder website YoungStar. Parents can locate the centers closest to them, find their rating and search through violations.

"We encourage parents to look at the frequency of violations. (Look) at whether the providers have corrected those violations," Paige said.

In the case of Curiel-Prado, Judge Borowski sentenced him in September to two years in prison, eight years probation. He was required to register as a sex offender, ordered not to have any contact with children under 16 except his grandchild and ordered not to contact the victims' family.

The judge took his age into account. His defense attorney said it was also his first criminal offense and he did not put the victims through a jury trial.

"I believe he is remorseful and sorry. He has fully accepted his responsibility," defense attorney John S. Joyce said.

The judge told the court he doesn't blame the defendant's daughter for what happened at her day care but said Curiel-Prado took advantage of the children there.

"I can't imagine how anyone would ever let their kids set foot in that day care again, ever. I wouldn't," Judge Borowski said.

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