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'This makes me fall apart': Family frustrated after charges declined against OKC daycare worker accused of physically assaulting children; DHS investigates

'This makes me fall apart': Family frustrated after charges declined against OKC daycare worker accused of physically assaulting children; DHS investigates

OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) - A now-former daycare worker with A Step Above Learning Center has been terminated following allegations of physical abuse.

The daycare worker's name will not be revealed at this time as the person has not been formally charged.

A mom who claims her child was a victim of the alleged abuse, Katie Welch told KFOR she received a call from a Department of Human Services representative in July, saying there was a child complaint at the daycare.

Welch said the complaint then led to an in-house surveillance footage review and DHS "accidentally" stumbled upon an incident in which her daughter was involved.

News 4 cannot share the video as we do not own the copyrights to it, but Welch's husband was allegedly authorized by the daycare to video record the incident.

KFOR Reporter, Kaylee Olivas has watched the video.

The video shows a daycare worker grabbing Welch's daughter by the arm, lifting her off the ground, and swinging her around to the other side while on her phone.

"Immediately spurted a series of emotions," said Welch. "That was frustrating because the moment we found out that this happened to our daughter, our whole family dynamic shifted a little."

A Step Above Learning Center said in a statement,

"The employee was removed from our center as soon as we found out and was terminated. We notified authorities immediately and they began their investigation. We believe anyone who commits acts like this should never work with a child or vulnerable person again."

According to DHS records, there is "substantiating evidence" backing the allegations of the daycare worker grabbing a child while leaving marks, hitting a child in the face, leaving a child in soiled clothes for an extended period of time, yanking two children by the arm and off the ground in an inappropriate manner, and more.

The daycare worker was terminated on July 12.

A police report was filed with Oklahoma City Police.

Welch said there was a bruise on her daughter's upper arm. She added both a social worker and detective took pictures of the bruise.

Welch filed assault and battery charges against the daycare worker through the Cleveland County District Attorney's Office.

"Unfortunately, based on the evidence and information we received from the Oklahoma City Police Department, we determined that the incident described did not rise to the level of child abuse," explained the CCDA's Public Information Officer, Alexis White.

Welch claims the CCDA's Office told her they couldn't file assault and battery charges since her daughter was a minor.

According to an attorney KFOR spoke with off the record, there is no age limit to assault and battery charges.

White said under the law, extraordinary force has to be proven for an incident to rise to the level of child abuse, but in this case, because there wasn't "any injury" present nor was there proof of extraordinary force, the case did not classify as child abuse.

"Although it was inappropriate, it does not rise to the level of extraordinary force required by the law in order for us to file child abuse charges. When we determined that we were unable to prosecute the case, we sent it to the Oklahoma City City Prosecutor’s office so that they could determine if they could file any charges," stated White.

That case was filed through the Oklahoma City's Municipal Court, but four separate citations for assault and battery were declined for "predicate issues."

The case was declined on August 30, but Welch said no one made her aware until days after that ruling.

"This person is basically getting away with assaulting four children and there's no accountability and nobody will help me," Welch said.

The daycare told KFOR they are "appalled the charges have been dropped. We stand behind the parents wanting justice."

"I am angry. I have cried my tears. I am emotional. This makes me fall apart with no resolution because I just feel like I have failed my daughter. And at the end of the day, I'm just angry," said Welch.

Welch clarified she is not wanting the daycare worker to be locked up in prison for the rest of her life, but she is looking for accountability.

Welch's daughter is still at the daycare as she said, "I feel like they are a good facility and that they have done what they're supposed to and that they are looking at the best interests of my daughter."

Welch did reach out to the daycare worker via text in which she said, "I'd like to talk about this face to face. Mother to mother."

The person replied in the text thread saying she doesn't want to get hurt and that she didn't hurt Welch's daughter out of anger.

"Those babies were my everything. I love them so much and I think about them everyday still! I know as a mom you're hurting because I know I would be if somebody "hurt" my child. I'm extremely scared because I've never been in trouble with my job, the law or anything. I'm not an abusive person at all," the daycare worker's text read.

The two have not had communication since.

There is an ongoing DHS investigation with the daycare facility.

DHS recommends families use the agency's Child Care Locator to find licensed, quality child care in the area or to monitor the licensing visits that occur at their child's program.

Welch said she will continue fighting for her daughter and the case to be looked at further.

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