Daycare owner accused of child abuse released on conditions
The owner of a Lachine daycare who was arrested for allegations of child abuse has been released from police custody on the promise to appear in court at a later date.
Until then, the 59-year-old owner of College des Petits Anges is prohibited from operating a daycare facility and from being in a position of authority over a person under 16.
The daycare was shuttered by police on Wednesday after police alleged the owner had shaken several children in her care in her home, but pointed out that nothing the woman did caused visible lesions on the children. The home is registered to a woman named Rosina Mercuri.
Neighbours say they can’t believe the allegations.
“She's a sweet woman who loves children,” said one neighbour.
Officials at the family ministry say the daycare is unregistered, meaning it can’t legally provide services to more than six children.
When the police arrived at the daycare on 6th Ave. on Wednesday, there were eight children under the owner’s care. No one else who worked at the daycare was there.
“iIt's a huge concern for us, because they're not registered. That means there's no oversight and no obligation on their part to follow any rules or regulations. Nobody knows what's going in those homes,” said Gina Gasparini with the Quebec Association of Daycares, adding that she found it troubling the daycare was handing out receipts and no one from the government noticed they were breaking the law.
“The information to know exactly how many children were attending that daycare was in the hands of Revenue Quebec, so why the ministry of family cannot coordinate to go intervene is a huge mystery,” she said.
A spokesperson for the family ministry said the file has now been transferred to youth protection and that in addition to criminal charges, the owner could be fined up to $10,000.
Investigators met with youth protection services and the Crown Tuesday after a complaint was filed and the decision was made to close the daycare as a matter of urgency.
"As soon we have a report and we have reasonable doubt that there is mistreatment of child, it's really important to act immediately," said Montreal police spokesperson Manuel Couture.
After Thursday’s raid, police stayed with the children until their parents arrived, said Couture.
"We called every parent to pick them up and we stayed with them to make sure they were safe," he said.
An ad the owner posted to Kijiji reads that she offers a “warm and safe environment,” adding that she “has years of experience” and that “each child's development is important to her.”
The daycare tended to kids under five years old and opened in 2014.
The College des Petits Anges was advertised as being open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It is not subsidized by the provincial government and so is not subject to the same oversight and inspections of staff as CPEs.
One father whose child had attended the daycare for three years, but no longer does, told CTV Montreal he never had any issues with the owner and was stunned by the allegations.
"My son is okay, that's the essential part for me," said a mother as she collected her 17-month-old son.
The Association of Quebec Daycares recommends parents who have any suspicions about how their children are treated drop by their daycare during the day without notice.