New Ulm daycare investigated by DHS

A New Ulm daycare was investigated by the Minnesota Department of Human Services in response to allegations that a staff person acted inappropriately with a child.

According to a DHS Maltreatment Investigation Memorandum, the investigation began after a report that a worker pretended to get married to the child and “taught the alleged victim how to ‘French kiss’.”

On Aug 25, a family member contacted the daycare because the 5-year-old victim began sticking his or her tongue in the mouth of family members when they tried to give the child a kiss, according to DHS records.  The family member reported that when they asked where the child learned to kiss like that, the 5-year-old replied: “That is how [the staff person] kisses me.”

According to the DHS memo:

“The alleged victim (AV) told the family member that the AV had played dress up at the facility, put on wedding attire, and went outside with the staff person (SP).  The SP and the AV ‘got married’ on the playground and kissed on the lips.  The SP ‘tickled’ the AV’s tongue with the SP’s tongue.”

Another child was reported to be present during the “wedding” when the staff person kissed the child, according to the report.

A daycare worker confirmed with DHS investigators that the victim and the accused staff person would have been alone in the classroom at times. On one occasion, the child witness was picked up late and would have been with the victim and the worker, according to the memorandum.

Another daycare worker told DHS that they had had a conversation with the accused staff person about the “fine line” between being a friend and a teacher to the children.  The worker also mentioned a child who declined to participate in water days because they didn’t want to put on a swimsuit in front of the staff person under investigation.

The same staff person also recalled reminding the accused worker that they were not supposed to be in the bathroom with the door closed with the children, according to investigation findings.

The staff worker in question abruptly quit on Aug 13, saying they didn’t get along with another teacher, according to the investigation findings.  The staffer apparently refused to answer calls when a co-worker called for more information.

The memorandum says a forensic interview was done with the 5-year-old on Sept 9 in which the child did not indicate they’d been sexually assaulted by anyone, according to the findings, but the child did relay the same information told to the family member.

The DHS memo also noted that required training information was unavailable for the accused staff person and one of the workers who was interviewed as part of the investigation.  However, a corrections order issued by DHS on Jan 14 showed that the daycare had corrected the violation and no further action was necessary.

The DHS investigation found that the accused staff person was responsible for recurring and/or serious maltreatment, and that sexual abuse occurred. The worker has been disqualified from providing direct contact services.

Detective Jeff Hohensee with the New Ulm Police Department says the case has been referred to the county attorney, although he doesn’t believe there will be enough evidence to charge the worker, who apparently didn’t respond to calls from law enforcement and changed phone numbers.

“We take these allegations very seriously and the children’s safety is our top priority,” said Kids X-Cel Center Executive Director Emily Ellison in an email to SMN.  “We followed all protocols set in place by the New Ulm Police Department and DHS investigations. If you would like any questions answered, please contact Tessa Ripka at DHS.”

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