COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - A daycare owner and two employees in Colorado were arrested Monday after 26 children under 3 years old were found behind a “false wall” last month, police said.
Carla Faith, 58, owner of Play Mountain Place and the Counterpoint School in Colorado Springs, was arrested on child abuse charges, FOX 21 News reported.
Employees Christina Swauger and Katelynne Nelson were also arrested, according to the station.
On Nov. 13, the Colorado Department of Human Services asked the Colorado Springs Police Department to assist in conducting a welfare check at the daycare after complaints that the facility was caring for more children than their license allowed, authorities said in a release.
But when officers arrived at the licensed facility, they did not see any children, police said.
Faith’s residence is located on the same property as the daycare facility, and “officers could hear the noises of children coming from her home.”
“During their investigation, officers found a false wall that led to the home’s basement,” the police department said. “When officers walked down the stairs, they located two adults and 26 kids inside a finished basement, all of who were under the age of three-years-old.”
After the incident, officers started working alongside the DHS to get the children back with their families, and the facility’s license was suspended.
Faith was arrested on two counts of misdemeanor child abuse and one felony count of attempting to influence a public servant, FOX 21 reported, citing court documents. Nelson faces charges of possession of a controlled substance, the report said.
“Hindsight I’m like, God why didn’t I question more?” parent Sherry MacWilliam told the station. “A puppy mill for toddlers is what she was running.”
Another parent Melissa Sullivan told FOX 21 that the daycare owner “fooled a lot of people.”
“When you talked to her you believed what she was telling you,” she said.
Faith is being held on $3,000 bond.
The CSPD will handle the criminal investigation while the DHS handles licensing matters. The department is also investigating other licensed operations owned by Faith, Fox 31 Denver reported.
Police have yet to identify the children or determine if they were related to Faith, who had two of her facilities shut down by authorities in the late 1990s.
In 1998, investigators found 44 small children in one of Faith's unlicensed homes, according to the Los Angeles Times. In 1991 she was placed on five years probation after investigators found her in a local park with 23 children — nine above the legal capacity.
At the time, Faith said investigators targeted her because they disliked her.
“They don’t like me because I don’t always follow their rules,” she said. “Do I occasionally run over capacity? Yes, I do.”
If you have concerns about a childcare program, call the childcare complaint line at 1-800-799-5876.
DHS also advised parents check Colorado Shines, a state-run website that has information on early learning programs, including quality rating licensing history and monitoring reports, according to the release.
“Licensed childcare is the best, safest option for children,” police said.
FOX News contributed to this report. This story was reported from Los Angeles.