Action Report: Kids Quest Child Care Investigation-Part 1

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - In November 2012, the Mississippi State Department of Health instructed Johna Blair, the owner of Above and Beyond Child Care Center in Biloxi, to divest herself of any interest in the 24-7 child care facility, for failing to follow state guidelines.

A new owner took over the operations of Above and Beyond child care center and the name was changed to Kids Quest. Two years and six months later, more complaints from workers who say Kids Quest is operating well below state guidelines.

Six former and present child caregivers contacted me with their concerns over what was happening inside the facility.

Kids Quest owner Tracie Shishilla, who took over the child care center in January of 2013, says Kids Quest is top-notch.

"This is a world-class facility," Shishilla said.

These former and present workers, some who wish to remain anonymous disagree. They say they are concerned for the safety of the 100-plus children who attend the child care facility.

"There was so many times that I wanted to reach out to the parents, but I couldn't do that because I was worried about my own child [crying], my own family... but I did reach out to a parent and I ended up being terminated for that. I only wanted to help and that's why I'm doing what I'm doing now, [crying] help these babies and their families."

"These parents trust us to take care of their children and they're not being properly taken care of and they're being neglected."

Listen and watch this video taken by childcare worker Kenzia Ingram.

"It's 20 of y'all out here. It's hard to keep up with all y'all when it's just me out here by myself. Please stop doing that, somebody is going to get hurt."

"There were two-year-olds, three-year-olds and four-year-olds with the spring breakers, and the spring breakers were usually about 10 to 12. I said, 'I can't deal with it,'" Ingram said.

According to State Department of Health guidelines, the minimum ratio of caregiver staff-to-children should be:

*Under one-year-old - one staffer to five children

*One-year-olds - one staffer to nine children.

*Two-year-olds - one staffer to 12 children.

*Three-year-olds - one staffer to 14 children.

Ingram and other caregivers say an autistic youngster was forced to be belted into a high chair two or three times a week.

"He sits in that high chair, he kicks and fights for his life because he wants to get out of that high chair. But because they don't want to deal with him, they put him there and lock him away," stated Ingram.

How long does he have to stay in that high chair? Ingram said, "He's in there three to four hours."

Kids Quest owner Tracie Shishilla and director Christy George, who was a director when the facility was run by the previous owner, blame the latest allegations on disgruntled employees.

"We had a couple of people we had to fire and are disgruntled. The entire year there has not been an issue," stated George.

I asked owner Tracie Shishilla if she would she be surprised to learn some of the employees who contacted me are still in there working?

She said, "This is a world-class facility."

I asked if she would comment on my question. "Ah, I can only say that there's a possibility that they are being led," stated Shishilla.

The Mississippi State Department of Health has fined Kids Quest $200 for going over the staff-to-child ratios. Spokeswoman Liz Sharlot said they are investigating another issue, but would not specify what it is. She also says State Department of Health conducts regular inspections of Kids Quest.

Friday, present and former caregivers at Kids Quest tell us that the children don't get the state required menus. Owner Tracie Shishilla will respond to those allegations

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