SALEM, Ore. (KOIN 6) — At the Alphabet Academy Learning Center in Salem, manager Charity Araujo and owner Moriah Jaeger have a number of children in their care.
But in view of KOIN 6 News cameras and while children were at the facility, the two women – mother and daughter – took bong hits just a few feet from the play area.
“We’re not your typical child care,” Araujo told KOIN 6 News.
Parent noticed red flags
Katlyn White, who was thinking of enrolling her son at Alphabet Academy Learing Center, said she had no idea what was going on at the daycare.
“The idea of them being impaired and taking care of your son, that just doesn’t sit well as a parent,” White told KOIN 6 News. “It definitely doesn’t.”
But in looking back, she said she did notice red flags.
“They were complaining about neighbors and they brought up that DHS was called,” White said.
The Oregon Department of Human Services had a previously received a complaint of “drug usage at the day care,” KOIN 6 News discovered. The Department of Education’s Office of Child Care also had previous allegations of “drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana” at the 24-hour day care.
Their daycare license, under Charity Araujo’s name, was suspended Feb. 19, 2014 “due to CPS contact for not supervising the children.” The daycare re-opened under the name of her daughter, Moriah Jaeger, and changed locations to their current spot.
They re-opened April 25.
In late May, the Oregon Department of Education received a complaint about partial nudity and a lewd gesture being made while two children were there.
A separate complaint said “a party appeared to be going on in the backyard. The adults on site were all drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana. All of the adults on site were smoking Marijuana at the same time (6 or 7 adults.)”
But an investigation had not started until KOIN 6 News alerted them.
Kathleen Hynes, the legal and compliance manager for the Office of Child Care, who has the power to pull the daycare’s license, told KOIN 6 News she didn’t “have that information” if it was legal to smoke pot with a medical marijuana card around kids at the daycare.
But after seeing the KOIN 6 News video showing Araujo and Jaeger smoking, Hynes launched the investigation.
The next day, the license for the Alphabet Academy Learning Center was suspended, according to Hynes and Gene Evans with DHS.
Medical marijuana cards
Araujo and Jaeger agreed to speak with KOIN 6 News and said they both have medical marijuana cards.
“Why does the news need to be involved?” said Jaeger. “Some parents may have a problem with that.”
“If it’s not affecting their children,” Araujo said, “it’s not affecting anything else.”
Now, DHS is also involved. KOIN 6 News learned a formal investigation was launched as a result of this story.
The daycare will no longer be funded with state tax dollars, KOIN 6 News learned.
State Rep. Julie Parrish, a Republican from West Linn, told KOIN 6 News she believes DHS and the Oregon Department of Education may have a misunderstanding about the Oregon medical marijuana card law’s relation to daycare rules.
Those rules ban drug and alcohol use at daycares.
“If (those departments) are interpreting that someone with an Oregon medical marijuana card has a prescription that’s wrong,” Parrish said. “It’s not treated as a prescription.”
For a Registered Family Child Care Home, the Oregon Administrative Rules state, “No one shall consume alcohol or use non-prescription controlled substances in the presence of children. No one under the influence of alcohol or non-prescription controlled substances shall be in the home when child care children are present.”
In a Certified Family Child Care Home, the OARs state, “No one shall consume alcohol or use non-prescription controlled substances in the certified family child care home during the hours the child care business is conducted. No one under the influence of alcohol or non-prescription controlled substances shall be in the home during the hours the child care business is conducted.”
Parrish and Rep. Jennifer Williamson, D-Portland, are working across the aisle on a bill for next session to prevent medical marijuana smoking in daycares — even though Parrish believes it’s already illegal.
“You can’t invoke ‘medical marijuana card’ and take care of kids,” Parrish said. “No way.”
Araujo and Jaeger told KOIN 6 News they told the parents of their daycare children on Friday they smoke marijuana while children are in their care — the same day their license was suspended.
They said when they smoke they are not the primary caregiver for the children.
But they still don’t feel they should have to tell anyone but their doctor.
“You don’t necessarily notify someone when you’re taking morphine or anything like that when you get hurt,” said Araujo.
Regardless, Katlyn White is not bringing her son back to the Alphabet Academy Learning Center.
“I don’t want it anywhere near my son, whether it’s legal or illegal,” she said. “Alcohol is legal, too, and I don’t want them drinking while he’s there.”