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Exclusive: Newburgh Daycare Owner Says Facility 'Not Licensed'

An in-home daycare owner in Newburgh says she's never been licensed since she opened the facility nearly four years ago. A parent filed a complaint with the State Of Indiana, and now, an investigation has been opened.

Posted: Sep 14, 2020 8:01 PM
Updated: Sep 15, 2020 4:57 PM

A Tri-State parent took to social media, her post going viral after learning a daycare her 4-year-old son was attending was not licensed or accredited in the State of Indiana.

"We just moved here from Arkansas a couple months ago, I looked toward Facebook and the local Newburgh Facebook page for recommendation, I found 'Lil Steps Daycare'," says parent Amanda Bennett.

Bennett enrolled her 4-year-old son in Lil Steps Daycare, an in-home daycare located at 8344 North Birch Drive in Newburgh, Indiana.

"The day I brought him to start was Sept. 2," Bennett explained.

The 4-year-old little boy attended the childcare facility for six days.

"Oh my child will never be returning to this facility, its Monday today, I received that letter on Friday, that was the final straw he will never be going back to that facility," Bennett added.

Bennett is talking about a graphic newsletter written by Lil Steps Daycare owner Karin Willett.

The letter written to parents is scattered with profanity. It refers to the neighbors of the daycare as old and grouchy. It goes on to call children "whinny, brats and bad kids." The newsletter went on to say that Willett wanted to "go home, have a drink, and watch a movie." Willett later acknowledging she rarely drinks.

The daycare owner defending her newsletter, "I was angry and frustrated when I got home that night, I got down on my computer and started typing, it's nothing abnormal, there are rules, every daycare has rules it doesn't matter home centers or whatever" says Willett.

According to the State of Indiana, there are only four in-home accredited childcare centers within Newburgh city limits.

"I am not licensed, or accredited, I have watched and babysat for a few years, I am just an ordinary person thats had a lot of training and I love my babies" Willett adds.

During the interview with 44News Reporter Tyler Druin, Willett admitted to watching up 25 children at a time inside the daycare in the past.

"Tyler: So at any point did you know that she was not a licensed or accredited facility in Indiana?

Amanda Bennett: No I did not know that, she never told me during the interview process whether she was licensed or not, I just assumed that she was"

A number of parents have reached out to 44News and Reporter Tyler Druin defending the daycare owner. According to Karin Willett she has tried to become licensed and accredited for years, but the state continued to give her the run around, the woman says.

"Tyler: What happens if the state shuts you down for this?

Karin Willett: If they shut me down, then they shut me down, but I hope they know I am here willing, I am willing to get licensed, but everywhere and everyone I talked to, they just kind of put you in the wrong direction, no one has helped."

According to Indiana state law, those who are not licensed can watch up to five children in their home.

Willett allowed 44News cameras inside the daycare, our news crew counted four staff members and 12 children.

Willett says her son lives in the home full time.

"Tyler: Are you planning to file a complaint?

Amanda Bennett: I have already called the state and I have started the whole process of filing a complaint"

Willett says she has been operating in the same location for the last four years.

The State of Indiana says the complaint, which was filed on Sept. 14, 2020, is currently under review by a state investigator.

Parents were told in a newsletter that they were not allowed to claim their children's daycare expenses on their taxes. According to the newsletter, the employees of the childcare center would claim the children's daycare expenses. Willett told Reporter Tyler Druin that she spoke to her CPA, "as far as I know I am doing everything right" (Willett says).

The newsletter from Lil Steps Daycares says rates for children who attend 1-2 days are $75. Children that attend 3-5 days, the rate is $125 a week.

During the interview, Willett said on camera that the daycare was not her income adding, family and friends help watch the children.

"Tyler: Do you think what you are doing is illegal or wrong?

Karin Willett: I don't think it's wrong, maybe in the eyes of the state it might be illegal because I am not licensed, wrong no, you have so many parents out here that need help, some of these daycare centers shouldn't even be open."

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