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Arizona hands daycare $300 fine after abuse cover-up, Ducey's office stands behind fine

Posted at 4:14 PM, Dec 20, 2017
and last updated 2017-12-21 16:11:16-05

A Valley daycare will remain open after three employees were convicted in cases involving child abuse and an elaborate cover-up scheme. 

The Arizona Department of Health Services said that Brighter Angels Learning Center, a preschool and daycare near Central Avenue and Baseline Road, was asked to pay a $300 fine for three violations. This comes after a child was struck in the face with a sharp broom by an employee back in February.

That price tag given to the facility is frustrating to the family of the then 21-month-old boy, who was left with a scar on his face.

"My son was really hurt and there's still a lot of kids there and they're in danger," said the boy's mother.

She asked not to be identified for the sake of her son, but she wants what happened at Brighter Angels to be seen everywhere.

RELATED: Former Valley daycare worker caught on surveillance assaulting child

"I can't get out of my head... the day I took him to the hospital," the woman recalled.

Daycare workers at the facility first told her that her son was bleeding profusely from his face because he tripped and fell inside one of their rooms.

However, that story did not add up to hospital staff after he was rushed there.

The surveillance video from inside the classroom showed the employee hitting the boy in the face with a broom twice.

Following the police's investigation and the arrest of the daycare employee, director and owner, the Arizona Department of Health Services conducted an investigation of their own.

They found three violations regarding this incident. 

The department fined Brighter Angels $100 for not having enough staff in the room per number of children. They were fined another $100 for general safety standards. The final $100 fine came from the way in which they went about disciplining that child with corporal punishment. 

Brighter Angels was also asked to give a written plan of correction in regard to each individual violation.

But, to the victim's family, they feel like a $300 punishment is a slap in the face.

ABC15 sat down with the director of the Arizona Department of Health Services to ask about their concerns. 

Dr. Cara Christ said, as ridiculous as it sounds, that is all the state is legally able to do. 

"All we're allowed to do is fine them a maximum of $100 per violation, per day," Dr. Christ explained. 

There is an option of suspending or revoking a license, but the department decided civil money penalties was the appropriate next step for Brighter Angels.

"I do believe that we have to weigh the ability for people to identify a mistake, make changes and move forward and improve and correct," Dr. Christ said.

Lillie Adams was convicted for the physical abuse. She was the one who took a broom to the boy's face. She was fired that day.

Denise Perla Sierra Duarte was the daycare director and admitted her role in covering up the abuse to the boy's mother. She left the company shortly after.

The daycare owner, Ruben Sandoval, was convicted of covering up child abuse, however, he still works and operates multiple daycare locations around the Valley. 

This conviction will not stop his ability to do that. 

"What the conviction will play a role in is if it meets one of the criteria that will either get them not able to get a fingerprint card or get them put on the registry," Dr. Christ explained. "That's where it will play an important role." 

ADHS went on to say that they do plan on monitoring Brighter Angels more closely following this investigation. 

ABC15 also reached out to Governor Doug Ducey who oversees the department. He stood by ADHS' decision to keep the facility open. 

In a statement, Governor Ducey's office said:  

" Governor Ducey takes the safety of Arizonans, especially children, very seriously. All childcare providers must have a current Arizona Department of Public Safety fingerprint clearance card and cannot be registered with the Arizona Department of Child Safety’s Central Registry. ADHS enforces these requirements to the fullest extent of the law and will continue to hold accountable any facility that puts a child’s safety in jeopardy."

For the victim's family, they are advocating that something needs to change on the law books. They're pushing for harsher penalties to try and ease the physical and emotional scar that they're now forced to see every day. 

Sandoval has yet to be sentenced for his misdemeanor charge for failing to report child abuse. He will be in court toward the end of next month. 

The department suggests parents take action and visit AZCareCheck before taking their child to a facility in our state. That website allows you to search child care operations to see what violations they had and what the penalty was.