Colorado day care owner sentenced for hiding kids in basement

Posted at 11:54 AM, October 22, 2021 and last updated 11:54 AM, October 22, 2021

By Colette Bordelon, Caitlin Sullivan

COLORADO SPRINGS (KOAA) — Former Colorado Springs day care owner Carla Faith has been sentenced to six years in prison for attempting to influence a public servant, which is a class four felony.

Faith was also given concurrent 10 month sentences for each of the 26 counts of child abuse. Another concurrent 10 month sentence was handed down for obstructing a peace officer.

She faces a $500 fine for operating a child care facility without a license.

FILE – Carla Faith (KOAA)

In August, Faith and one of her employees, Christina Swauger, were found guilty by a jury on 26 counts of misdemeanor child abuse. Authorities found children behind a false wall in the basement of Faith’s Play Mountain Place day care on Willamette Avenue in late 2019.

“What you did was wrong on so many levels. This wasn’t an accident. This was not a result of a momentary lapse in judgment… She made a series of choices that placed the safety and welfare of 26 children in jeopardy.” – Judge Gregory Werner

During the sentencing, lead prosecutor Andrew Herlihy played a 48-minute video for the court, with statements from parents and professionals.

One parent, in tears, spoke about her daughter saying “she became more aggressive, she was hitting… pulling hair.”

In addition to parents Dr. Steven Berkowitz, a professor in child psychiatry, also spoke in the video. He said that “these kinds of experiences that these children had at this day care can have long term impacts.” He went on to say that the children are not only at high risk for emotional and psychiatric issues but medical problems as well.

Josh Tolini, Faith’s defense attorney, objected to Dr. Berkowitz addressing Carla Faith. Tolini said that the doctor was trying to give a psychiatric evaluation of Faith even though he had never met Faith, and therefore the information cannot be accurate.

During the sentencing, parents and family members of the children at Play Mountain Place filled the pews, and many approached the podium to address Judge Werner.

Many spoke about the trauma their children have experienced since going to Faith’s day care, citing sleep and anxiety issues that persist to this day.

One parent, Kim Marshall, said that both of her children are still in counseling.

“We sleep with the lights on in our house,” said Marshall, “my kids are anxious. They are fearful of the world.”

Tolini responded by saying that he believes Faith has a significant issue with saying “no” and this was an issue that snowballed. He added that she didn’t have the heart to put these kids out and made some “incredibly poor decisions about how to do this.”

In 2019, officers assisting child welfare inspectors searched Play Mountain Place on November 13 where they found the false wall hiding access to a basement. When they searched the basement, they found 25 children being supervised by two adults. One child was picked up by their parents as officers arrived. The officers reported that many of the children in the basement had soiled or wet diapers, and were sweaty and thirsty.

Faith’s day care license authorized her to care for up to six children, but only two of those six could be under the age of two. According to the prosecution, 12 of the children were under the age of two.

This undated booking photo provided by the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office shows Carla Faith. Faith was accused of hiding 26 children behind a false wall at her Colorado Springs daycare center and arrested on suspicion of child abuse. (El Paso County Sheriff’s Office via AP)

Police said when they arrived, Faith was refusing to cooperate despite officers hearing the children. Faith told officers they could search the daycare and the main house. An officer saw a stack of backpacks in a closet that Faith said belonged to a soccer team, and that she was cleaning them.

Officers heard music coming from the basement and asked Faith how to get to the basement. Court documents and body-worn camera video reveal she told them the home did not have a basement.

Court documents said officers found the wall when one of them bumped into it. The wall moved when the officer made contact with it and saw “two parallel scrape marks on the wooden floor” that led away from the wall.

The officer then moved a plant, saw a “small seam” between the wall and “false wall,” and pulled the false wall to the right to reveal a stairwell leading to the basement.

They found 25 kids hidden behind the “false wall” in the basement of Play Mountain Place with two adults. One of the children had been picked up by their parent as officers arrived.

Counterpoint School, also owned by Faith, was shut down as well by state investigators. KOAA uncovered Play Mountain Place and Counterpoint School had racked up multiple violations in recent years.

This story was originally published October 21, 2021, by KOAA in Colorado Springs, an E.W. Scripps Company.

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