COURTLAND TOWSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — The state has suspended the license of a Rockford-area home child care, saying the woman who runs it routinely locked children inside tents.
The suspension of Connie Rookus’ day care on Young Avenue near Whittall Street in Courtland Township went into effect at 6 p.m. Wednesday. It came after the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs Child Care Licensing Bureau got a tip Feb. 1 that Rookus was locking children in the tents during naptime.
The state says Rookus admitted to “placing children in child-sized tents and locking them inside using padlocks.”
“She admitted that she knew locking the children in tents was wrong, however she did not think that it was abusive,” the suspension order reads in part. “(Rookus) stated that it was easier to lock children in tents to ensure their safety and to know that they were not destroying things.”
The order also says that Rookus would remove the locks before parents toured the home.
A licensing inspector went to the home Feb. 6. There, the inspector saw at least four “play yards occupied by children that were encased in a black opaque fabric enclosure.” Two of the play pens had children under a year old inside; both had a bottle.
According to the document, Rookus told the inspector she had been locking kids in tents for the last two to three years.
“Based on the information provided to the Bureau, any children entering the home would be at risk of imminent harm,” the order says.
The state order said an investigation was ongoing. Rookus may appeal the suspension before an administrative law judge.
The Kent County Sheriff’s Department said it was looking into the situation. As of Thursday, deputies were “still in the fact finding portion of (their) investigation.” If it found probable cause, the department said it would send the case to the prosecutor’s office for review.
Rookus has had a home child care license since at least 2003, state records show. Initially, she was licensed for up to six children; that was increased to 14 children in March 2021.
No one answered the door at Rookus’ home when News 8 went there Thursday seeking comment on the allegations.