BRADENTON, Fla. - Amanda Beebe rushed to the day care center where she left her 18-month-old and became hysterical. Her boy's body was covered with more than a dozen bite marks. His face, limbs and back were swollen and raw.
Who bit her boy? Where were the adults? How could this happen at a day care?
"It looked like he'd been mauled by an animal," Beebe told The Associated Press on Wednesday. But the doctor at the hospital told Beebe that by the look of the marks, her son had been bitten by another child.
Now, the Manatee County Sheriff's Office and child welfare authorities are investigating the J's Bright Learners center in Bradenton and an employee, Caci Reese, now faces charges of child neglect.
A woman who answered the phone at the day care Wednesday said no one there could comment.
Beebe said she had recently put her two children, the 18-month-old and his 4-year-old brother, into the day care so she could continue her education in alternative medicine. She was paying $40 a week — all she could afford — with a government voucher covering the rest.
On Aug. 26, a day care worker notified Beebe and her husband that their younger boy had been bitten once.
"We weren't upset — that happens with children," said Beebe, who assumed workers would keep a watchful eye on the child with the biting issues.
Three days later, she got another call. This time, the employee said "it's bad, it's really bad," she recalled.
She hung up and rushed to the center, where her boy was covered with bites and inconsolable.
"As a mom, you don't ever know what you're going to do in a situation. The anger didn't set in until later," she said. "This is my son; he's been hurt. As a mom you feel like this was your fault."
She rushed him to a hospital, where doctors called authorities.
A week later, Beebe was shocked that no one was arrested.
According to the Bradenton Herald, Florida's Department of Children and Families has issued violations to J's Bright Learners six times after its last 12 inspections, for leaving children unsupervised or failing to have enough staff to care for the number of children.
"I just want everyone to know this is not OK. I want justice," said Beebe, who published pictures of her boy's injuries on Facebook in a post that generated some 47,000 comments in a week.
She doesn't blame the other child — she blames the adults. She chose this day care because it was one of the few she could afford, and it had cameras. They allowed her to watch a recording, but because of the angle, she couldn't see her son being bitten, only that there appeared to be no adult in the room for about 20 minutes as her son came into view, crying.
Her son received antibiotics and he's on the mend, she said.
"I'm just grateful it's not worse," she said." I'm trying to look at the bright side."
The Department of Children and Families issued a statement Thursday:
What happened to this child is absolutely unacceptable. We are conducting a child care licensing investigation jointly with the child protection investigation division of the Manatee County Sheriff's Office. The employee responsible for caring for the child at the time this incident took place is no longer with the facility. Past inspections and violations on childcare facilities can be found online at myflfamilies.com.