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Victim count rises to four in alleged daycare abuse scandal

Accused teenager still in custody
By: Amber Marra, Journal Staff Writer
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Two more victims have been added to the list of children allegedly abused by a 14-year-old boy at an Auburn daycare.

The Placer County Sheriff's Office is continuing to investigate allegations that a teenager related to the owner of the Colored Pencils Preschool and Child Care sexually molested four children, according to Dena Erwin, spokesperson for the sheriff's office. The ages of the children range from 3 to 5.

The state Department of Social Services shut the daycare center down Tuesday afternoon. According to licensing documents provided by the department, Colored Pencils opened in 2005 and is run by Alma Rosa Arroyo.

The boy will not be named due to his age, but Erwin said he was still in custody at the Placer County Juvenile Hall on Wednesday. A call to Arroyo Wednesday afternoon rendered no comment.

Michael Weston, spokesman for the state Department of Social Services, said licensing all types of childcare on up to adult and elderly facilities falls solely on the department.

The largest amount of licensing for the department falls under family daycare homes, like Colored Pencils, childcare facilities, infant centers and school-aged daycare centers.

There are 104 daycare centers in Placer County able to accommodate 5,000 children at capacity, according to Weston. There are another 442 family daycare homes that can accommodate 4,300 children at capacity, the difference between the two being the licensee must reside within the facility they operate to be considered a family daycare home, Weston said.

There are around 90,000 facilities licensed through the state Department of Social Services statewide, including daycare centers, adult centers, and centers for the elderly, according to Weston. He added that its licensing division employs 1,100 people.

"When you look at their overall caseload they're usually familiar with the area and they have specializations, like if one person covers daycares then they only cover daycares, or if you have an individual who covers residential care centers for the elderly then they only do residential care centers for the elderly," Weston said.

The licensing evaluators are required to inspect family daycare homes like Colored Pencils every five years. Facilities can also be subjected to random inspections that are conducted every year.

Inspections are also prompted by complaints filed with the department.

Facility evaluation reports for Colored Pencils dating back to 2009 indicate that when sweeps were made by licensing staff delinquencies were found but were generally taken care of. For example, an investigation on April 28, 2011 found all areas of the daycare to be in compliance with department standards.

In another sweep in 2009 an infant was found sleeping in a bounce chair, which is prohibited and thus removed, according to the report.

Tuesday's visit by licensing evaluators issued the temporary suspension order citing for "Type A" regulatory violations, or those that "pose an immediate risk to the health and safety of children in care." The investigation found that at least two children were sexually molested at the daycare and that the licensee, Arroyo, failed to report the sexual abuse to the licensing agency.

Weston said Arroyo has 15 days to appeal the closure of Colored Pencils. After that a hearing would be held before an administrative law judge through the state Office of Administrative Hearings. If she does not appeal within the 15-day window her license will automatically be revoked indefinitely.

Weston added in the basic training required for childcare providers in California licensees are taught not only to display prior delinquencies, but also how to report violations to the Department of Social Services as soon as they are made aware of any occurring in the facility.

"These are the responsibilities you're being entrusted with," Weston said.

Heather Tremlin, director of O'Brien Child Development Center in Auburn, takes these responsibilities seriously and hopes the allegations against Colored Pencils won't cast a long shadow on her center and others in the community.

"My biggest concern is all of the criticism; it's upsetting when there are still great providers out there who are doing the best they can," Tremlin said.

As of Wednesday, Tremlin said her center had not yet absorbed any of the children who previously attended Colored Pencils.

She added that though she and her staff do not know the specifics of the investigation, they hope it will not deter parents from using the services centers like O'Brien and others provide.

"Every parent should feel comfortable in the daycare they choose," said Hailey Mesker, an infant teacher at O'Brien.

Contact Amber Marra at amberm@goldcountrymedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @Amber_AJNews.