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Parents upset after being unaware of allegations Odessa daycare was under investigation for child abuse

Here's how you can check daycare inspection reports to find out if your child's daycare is passing.

ODESSA, Fla. — In a matter of days, two employees at an Odessa daycare were arrested for child abuse, but it’s been months since the initial allegation was reported.

Deputies arrested a second person Tuesday in connection to child abuse accusations. The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office says 28-year-old Tara Ballou worked at Children’s Land of Imagination Academy until June 29.

The director and co-owner of the same daycare was also arrested for child abuse after authorities said 51-year-old Rong Liu pulled a child's head and neck and put her legs on top of the child to hold them down. She was arrested Friday, but the alleged incident happened back in June.

“I was contacted by a deputy,” said Kelly Autrey, the mother of the child who was a possible student being abused.

That’s how she found out her son was a possible victim in a case law enforcement was investigating.

“It’s like every parent’s worst nightmare. My stomach fell to the floor,” Autrey said.

She said the call came in on June 28 after she dropped her son off at the daycare.

“I turned right around and picked him up from class,” Autrey said.

According to Autrey, certain emails showed that she alerted the daycare the next day when she pulled her son out of class and was frustrated that she didn’t know about the allegations a week sooner when detectives first started investigating.

While Autrey said she was notified one week later, some parents are just finding out. 

Mandy and Nick Richardson found out what was going on at their daughter's daycare after Autrey posted an inspection report on Facebook. It showed that an investigation was now open and that the owner of the facility wasn’t handing the surveillance video to authorities unless there was a court order. 

"When we have to find out basic facts through a social media platform, that's unacceptable," said Nick Richardson. "Some type of alert system would be fantastic to just keep us in the know."

10 Tampa Bay contacted Hillsborough County Public Schools about the lack of communication towards parents regarding the investigation; the situation was down to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office to notify parents because it's the lead agency on child abuse investigations. 

While the investigation is ongoing, law enforcement has increased the amount of time spent at the daycare but don’t have the authority to remove staff from their positions during an investigation.

“That’s not right,” Autrey said.

She also said if the county is in charge of licensing, closing and or removing teachers from a facility, then it should be doing more to protect students

“They should be notifying parents immediately. Let us know what is going on. Our kids can’t speak for themselves. We have to be the one to do it for them,” Autrey said.

If you are a parent at home or know somebody with a child in a daycare facility, daycare inspection reports can be found at myflfamilies.com. Under services, go to child care and then hit provider search. Type in your facility. 

Here is the inspection report on Children’s Land of Imagination Academy.

In the report, it shows that the abuse allegation was taken and authorities asked the facility for the surveillance video but were told to get a court order.

 

   

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