HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (WBTV) – When Kari and DJ Barrentine found bruises on their 3-year-old son one day during a bath, they knew the black-and-blue spots were more than just the result of a rambunctious little boy.
The bruises were around his rib cage and armpits. Some in the distinct patters of an adult’s hand.
The worried parents checked the video from inside their son’s preschool room at Kids R Kids of Lake Norman and found video of a staff member handling their son roughly; in one instance, appearing to throw him on the ground.
After watching the video, the Barrentines called the daycare and went in for a meeting the next morning. That’s when staff showed them more video from another area of the school that showed their son being assaulted worse than what’s on the video.
“For one of the first times in my life, I had no words,” DJ Barrentine told WBTV in an interview.
“I was appalled, incredibly sad for my son, angry beyond all recognition. It was one of the worst things I’ve seen.”
An inspection report from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, which regulates daycares, found multiple violations related to the incident.
“On June 11, 2020, a staff member handled a three-year-old child roughly by picking up the child (sic) arm by the arms, poking, and pinching the child, which resulted in bruising to the child’s arms and underarm area,” the report read.
State investigators found the Barrentine’s son had been maltreated and that the incident happened in front of other young children.
The staff at Kids R Kids of Lake Norman also called the Huntersville Police, who charged the staff member, Ticaydiyah Young, with one count of misdemeanor assault on a child under 12. That charge is pending.
Young has also been disqualified from caring for children by DHHS. The daycare was given a written warning, records show.
DJ Barrentine said he and his wife were pleased to see the charges and other administrative action but wondered why nothing else was done to discipline other staff members at the facility. They also wonder how their child could have been abused in the first place.
Kids R Kids of Lake Norman is licensed by the state as a five-star facility. There are cameras in each room that parents can go back and watch on demand until the end of each day.
“It’s five-star rated. It was pretty much the most expensive in the area at the time and it had cameras,” Barrentine explained. “We were like ‘OK, well, paying the higher price, getting that better care, we can see what’s happening. Nothing can go wrong.’”
But, when asked how a child could be assaulted by a staff member at their daycare, the owners of the facility, Stephen and Laura Patton, could not offer an explanation.
“Well, first of all, like we want to thank you for coming and letting us talk about this. Child Safety is our number one priority,” Stephen Patton said when first asked how a child could be assaulted at the daycare.
“It’s our number one concern and as parents ourselves of three kids, three daughters, they all did child care as well, so we understand that trust that has to be involved when you’re dropping off your most precious thing and we worked on stop to maintain that trust.”
“But none of that answers the question: how could this have happened in your facility in the first place? If you had all these measures in place?” a reporter asked.
“How was it that a staff member that you hired and allowed to supervise these children could treat a child this way?”
“You know, again, we found it completely unacceptable,” Patton said. “And, yes, the former employee’s actions were – we would never stand for that.”
The Pattons pointed to steps they took after learning about the abuse from the Barrentines, including immediately firing the employee, calling police and self-reporting the incident to state regulators.
But they could not explain why none of the other employees at their daycare reported the incident after it happened.
“You know, we were… Again, we were notified by the parent – which, and we were so grateful that she did – so we could address this,” Stephen Patton said.
“None of the other staff members at your facility reported it,” a reporter asked. “Does that concern you?”
“Again, we take this with the utmost seriousness. We dealt with it immediately. We addressed that with our staff,” Patton said.
The Barrentine’s returned to Kids R Kids of Lake Norman briefly before ultimately leaving. DJ Barrentine said his son is now in counseling regarding the abuse.
“He goes through therapy every week to help with his behavior because this has definitely changed him,” he said.
The Barrentines said they called WBTV in hopes of warning other parents about what happened, even at a highly-rated facility.
“That just shows and proves no matter how much money you spend, no matter where you are and no matter what false sense of security those cameras give you, this stuff happens everywhere,” DJ Barrentine said.