Whitewater day care investigated after 2-year-old found wandering by highway
WHITEWATER, Wis. — A 2-year-old who was supposed to be at a day care in Whitewater was found alone outdoors by strangers, according to police and the men who found the girl.
Brian Madl, who works in Whitewater, said he was driving to work after lunch Thursday when he spotted the girl walking along Highway 59 in the rain. He said he stopped the vehicle, talked to the girl and brought her into his van to warm her up until police arrived.
Jason Smith, who, along with Madl, found the girl, told News 3 the incident is “unacceptable.”
“I was terrified. For as busy as this highway is with semi traffic, she should not be anywhere near this road, and especially by herself,” Smith said.
Madl’s post about the incident on Facebook went viral, with more than 7,000 shares, 5,000 reactions and more than 1,500 comments as of Friday afternoon.
Whitewater police Chief Lisa Otterbacher confirmed that a child was found outside and returned safely to her day care. A Whitewater officer met with the day care workers, the day care owner and the mother of the child involved.
Otterbacher said the police department didn’t have a comment on Madl’s Facebook post about finding the child. Otterbacher wrote in an email to News 3 that “sometimes posts and associated comments can be helpful and informative and sometimes they are inaccurate.”
Department of Children and Families Communications Director Joe Scialfa confirmed that the agency received a complaint against the The Learning Depot child care center related to the Whitewater incident.
The Learning Depot is on Highway 59, the same road where Madl said the girl was found.
DCF’s childcare rating and complaint-tracking system, YoungStar, had records of multiple violations during licensing visits by state officials in April, May and August of 2015 and April, July and November of 2016. Violations ranged from uncovered garbage cans, inaccurate record keeping to child-tracking procedures.
YoungStar records show The Learning Depot was sent a warning letter on Aug. 31, 2016, for a violation in July in which a staff member reported having 11 children in her group, but officials counted 12 and only 10 were signed in. A violation of close supervision was noted on April 4, 2016, which YoungStar described as “Children were not closely supervised when they ran ahead of the teacher when leaving the center and crossing the parking lot to play on the driveway while cars were driving through this same area.”
The center was fined $100 for an incident July 11 for an incident in which a 5-year-old was allowed to enter the building unsupervised from the playground to use the bathroom.
A message left with The Learning Depot staff Friday was not immediately returned.
Scalfa said DCF is investigating the Thursday incident.
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