A Westwego, Louisiana, daycare provider has been arrested after a mother found her 22-month-old baby boy covered in bites and scratches after being in the woman’s care for just one day.
Amanda Dufrene, 30, said she was shocked when she went to pick up her baby, Carson, on July 2.
"My heart dropped. It was the worst feeling in the world to see my baby look like he did," she told NOLA.
Dufrene found the boy with bites and scratches on his ears, arms, forehead, ankle, calf, foot and fingers, NOLA reported.
The mother had reportedly just returned to full-time working. She was looking for someone to look after her child and a relative and coworker recommended a local daycare provider by the name of Kayla Bellanger.
Shortly after Dufrene dropped her boy off at Bellanger’s house, she received pictures at work from Bellanger of bites on Carson’s elbow. Bellanger told Dufrene she felt “terrible,” but insisted that no other child could have bit Carson because he was sleeping alone on a couch.
She then asked Dufrene if the boy had a history of biting himself.
"I was hysterical," Dufrene said. "I remember saying to her, 'How could you possibly think he did this to himself?'"
Dufrene called police while at Bellanger’s home. Paramedics treated some of the boy’s injuries at the scene before he was taken to Children’s Hospital in New Orleans, where he received heavy doses of antibiotics. He also suffered deep bites to his fingers, which became infected and oozed puss, according to Dufrene.
Investigators took photos of the child’s injuries and consulted with the district attorney’s office. They arrested Bellanger on Monday on charges of child desertion.
"She claims she had taken her eyes of the children to prepare snacks for them," said Capt. Eddie Beyerback, a spokesman for the Westwego Police Department. "You would think with this number of bite marks, you would have heard the kid crying. It wouldn't have gotten to this extent."
Bellanger did not provide an official statement to police. Her attorney, Cameron Mary, insisted that she is innocent.
"We categorically deny that she did anything wrong," he said.
Although Bellanger has an occupational license from the city of Westwego to run a business from her home, she does not have a childcare facility license from the Louisiana Department of Education, which is a requirement for all daycare providers who care for seven or more children at a time, according to Ken Pastorick, a spokesman for the agency.
The officer who responded to Dufrene’s 911 call reported that eight children were at Bellanger’s home at the time, according to Beyerback.
Department of Education Superintendent John White is now calling for officials to crack down on underground, unregulated childcare providers.
"Ms. Bellanger never sought a license to operate a child care center,” White said. “Now, another child has been put in danger and harmed by an off-the-books business."
While Carson’s wounds are healing, Dufrene said his eating habits have changed and he now constantly grabs his own skin while repeating the word, “bite.” He also reportedly does not like to have his diaper changed and cries whenever she leaves his sight.
Dufrene said she still has a lot of unanswered questions about the incident.
"How long was he unattended, and after the first bite, why wasn't it stopped?" she asked. "Why did she not call me or the other mother, telling us what happened?"
Photo Credit: NOLA, Amanda Dufrene/NOLA