Convicted felons get jobs caring for children at day care centers

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DENVER -- Finding quality day care is one of the hardest decisions a parent has to make.  Every morning parents drop off their kids at licensed day care centers across Colorado, leaving their little lives to someone else’s hands.

A five-month long FOX 31 Denver undercover investigation found child care workers accused of violent crimes caring for children.

Our investigation found child care workers arrested for assault, drugs, weapon offenses, theft and burglary.

We obtained a report from the Colorado Department of Human Services (CDHS) that revealed police arrested more than 700 child care workers in 2012.

According to state documents, most of the workers are no longer with day care facilities.

But we found dozens of current day care employees who were charged and convicted of serious crimes.

Yet, the state refused to release their names.  FOX31 Denver went undercover inside day cares to track down some of the workers in the state’s report.

At Positive Alternative on Yale in Aurora, a FOX31 producer asked, “Does anyone have a criminal record here?”  The director at the day care answered, “No. No one.”

The director failed to mention their employee, Aminah Williams’ criminal rap sheet.

Williams has been convicted twice for assault, felony criminal trespass and drunk driving with a blood alcohol level more than three times the legal limit.

FOX31 Denver’s Heidi Hemmat asked the owner of Positive Alternative about the arrests. “She’s been convicted of assault twice,” Hemmat said.

Marcia Rush thanked Hemmat for coming in and then asked her to leave.  Hemmat asked Williams, “Do you have a violent temper?” Williams would not talk about her convictions.

At Gateway Academy in Greenwood Village, the director told FOX31 Denver that everybody at the day care has a clean record.  Hemmat asked, “So, nobody has been charged with a crime?”

The director said, “No.”  But that is not true.

Police arrested Stefanie Trujillo, a caregiver and cook at the academy last February for domestic violence. Trujillo was convicted of a lesser charge, criminal mischief.

When Hemmat asked about Trujillo, the director at the day care said, “You guys really need to leave.”

Home day care workers are also on the state’s report.  So, we checked on those workers too.

We found Tiana Degutis runs a day care out of her Littleton home.  Police arrested Degutis in September for assault and DUI.   Witnesses say the home day care operator “punched an unknown male in the face…five to ten times…” at a party.  Hemmat asked Degutis about her assault and DUI, but Degutis said “No comment.”

The Colorado Department of Human Services regulates thousands of day cares across the state.

State law says CDHS can only revoke a license if the provider or workers are convicted of child abuse, sexual assault or a violent felony. None of the workers named in this story meet that criteria.

The state also keeps records on every licensed day care center, but most criminal charges and convictions are not available to the public online.

Hemmat asked Terry Santi with CDHS’ child care licensing, “What does the parent do if they want to know about criminal charges or convictions? “ Santi said, “If it does not rise to the level of taking licensing action, then parents are going to have to engage the employer and say tell me about the staff working here.”

Day care providers are under no legal obligation to disclose criminal charges or convictions.

You can do your own detective work by getting the names and birthdays of day care workers and checking them on the Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI) website.

FOX31 Denver has uncovered an issue with the CBI criminal check system.  That story will air tomorrow night at 9.