A Montgomery County family is suing their child’s former daycare center, alleging repeated neglect and abuse.
In the lawsuit against Creme de la Creme in The Woodlands, Kristin and Andrew Ernest claim surveillance videos obtained by court order show their son was mistreated between July 2018 and June 2019.
“He started to regress. I couldn’t put him in a highchair to eat, so I would have to feed him on the floor in the kitchen,” Kristin said.
The couple says they couldn’t get straight answers from the daycare ownership and staff, so they hired attorney Brad Leger and went to court to fight for access to classroom surveillance video.
“What we saw in the video was far worse than I could have imagined,” Kristin said.
Still images from the surveillance video released to KPRC 2 appear to show the little boy alone in a row of otherwise empty highchairs, while teachers play with other children.
“We were told that our son was in the high chair for 20 minutes,” said Andy.
But the family and their attorney say a review of months worth of videos shows the child was frequently left in that state for long periods throughout the day.
“He’s in a highchair for hours a day, restrained for over six hours in a day, every day for months. We see our son not being fed while he’s in the chair, not being engaged with by staff when he’s in the chair,” the parents said.
In another still image, the boy is face down on the floor on the right side of the screen, while one teacher appears to look at her phone and another plays with children.
The Ernests say a teacher is also seen on video dragging the child across the floor by his arm.
“It is the ultimate form of betrayal and devastation to see your baby treated that way,” Kristin said.
Records from the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, which governs child care centers licensing, show since 2016, Creme de la Creme in The Woodlands has been cited 119 times for deficiencies regarding the minimum standards for childcare.
Of those, 93 were weighted as being high or medium-high risk to children, and several dealt with the supervision of children, placing children at risk and background checks of employees.
In a report on the family’s complaint, a state investigator wrote she observed several infants left in highchairs for long periods of time with no food or activities and recommended corrective action.
The report shows employees claimed the infants were put in highchairs for short amounts of time to “control the room”.
“Like many of us, Mr. and Mrs. Ernest believed they found a quality daycare that would provide a safe environment for their son to learn and grow,” said Bradley Leger of Leger Ketchum & Cohoon.
“Crème de la Crème did not follow through on its promises and as a result, this family has been traumatized by the repeated neglect and abuse of their child,” Leger said in a statement.
The family says their son is in ongoing therapy for PTSD.
The Ernests also claim in their lawsuit that Crème de la Crème intentionally or negligently destroyed evidence, including additional video surveillance of the neglect and abuse of their child.
The company did not respond to the specific allegations but sent this statement to KPRC 2 News:
“For almost four decades, Crème de la Crème has been caring for children with safety as our number one priority. That commitment is unwavering. Unfortunately, we cannot comment on this matter due to pending litigation.”
The case is set for trial in September 2021.