GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A former employee of the Rainbow Child Care Center in Allendale Township said she is not surprised by the abuse allegations that have surfaced against one of the center’s teachers.
The ex-employee spoke with 24 Hour News 8 on condition of anonymity. She agreed to speak publicly because she is aware of the concern parents who send their children to Rainbow must have.
“I know parents want answers,” she said in an interview Wednesday. “Media can twist things and it can be kind of scary.”
The former teacher said she worked for Rainbow for just under a year. She put in her two weeks’ notice shortly after the criminal investigation began, but hours later Rainbow management asked her not to return, she said.
“Those kids had my heart,” she said through tears. “Then I didn’t even get to say goodbye to any of them.”
Describing the ordeal as chaotic, the former teacher says she was there the day one of the children began to have trouble breathing. She says the center’s phones weren’t working, so an employee had to use her cellphone to call 911.
“Instant panic. Everybody’s panicking,” the former teacher said. “It’s very, very, very sad and I pray for that family.”
The child involved in the medical incident was treated and released from the hospital. Information about what caused him to stop breathing has not been released, though it’s not suspected he was the victim of abuse, police said.
During the medical investigation, police learned of the assault claims. Investigators would not divulge details about the alleged assaults but called them “minor” physical assaults that did not result in injury.
The former teacher interviewed by 24 Hour News 8 said a witness to the alleged assaults said the worker in question was seen pinching and hitting children in a classroom of 1-year-old babies.
“She has a track record of talking aggressively that I know of,” the former teacher said, adding that she never witnessed the suspect teacher assaulting any children. “I’ve heard her talk aggressively to children and that alone was very scary.
“These parents trust us with their children. They don’t expect us to do these sorts of acts,” she continued.
Ottawa County investigators said they were continuing an investigation into the center. They confirmed that the woman interviewed by 24 Hour News 8 was not a suspect in their case. Police will complete their investigation and then present it to the prosecutor’s office for review, they said.
The former employee attributed the recent troubles at the day care to a recent change in leadership, frustrated employees and poor hiring practices. She said Rainbow leaders’ focus on profit clouds their judgement in creating the best environment for children.
“I feel like Rainbow just needs to do better care at who they’re hiring,” she said. “Children, they’re not just things. They are our world. They’re our future.”
Public relations representatives for Rainbow released this statement in response to the former employee’s remarks:
“We take any accusation regarding the safety of the children we are proud to serve extremely seriously. Proper authorities were contacted immediately in these instances – including contacting emergency personnel the moment it was recognized the child was experiencing labored breathing. Additionally, appropriate measures were implemented relative to the staff members in question. Rainbow Child Care Center is committed to hiring teachers and staff members dedicated to providing our families with the highest quality educational practices. We follow all state guidelines in our hiring practices and provide continuing education opportunities to ensure professional and personal growth within our schools. We continue to work with authorities during their investigation, and are conducting our own internal investigation on these matters.”