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Rosewood Academy faces state investigation: What we know

In letters to parents, the company refutes allegations of child abuse.
Posted at 4:00 PM, Apr 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-02 19:52:10-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Rosewood Academy Childcare and Preschool announced last weekend that it would shut down each of its three Omaha locations for two weeks, “temporarily and voluntarily” while it faces allegations and an investigation by the state Department of Health and Human Services's Office of Children's Services Licensing.

In the Sunday letter, addressed to families of children who attend, owner Kelli Hansen wrote the daycares are facing a “devastating social media assault,” and shut down in order to defend “our business and our reputations through the pendency of this investigation.”

The letter calls allegations posted to social media “misinformation” and a “smear campaign.”

“The day will come when those individuals will be compelled to actually speak their claims aloud, after being sworn and under penalty of perjury,” the owner wrote in Sunday’s letter.

A licensing agreement on the doors of each location indicate the daycares won't reopen until at least April 9 pending an investigation.

“The present matter relates to my husband and co-founder of Rosewood Academy, Carl Hansen,” a letter dated Saturday reads.

“Carl’s intervention to protect the safety of some children from what he believed to be a potentially dangerous situation created by another child has been misreported and grossly mischaracterized as something completely different and terrible… We are cooperating with DHHS as we would in any situation.”

Co-founder Carl Hansen, Kelli’s husband, was the subject of an investigation, according to Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services records.

On Feb. 10, DHHS became aware of an investigation involving Carl Hansen, an interim licensing agreement signed on Feb. 23 states. A detail about the investigation is redacted. It prohibited Carl Hansen from being alone with daycare children during the period of the interim licensing agreement. It was filed to the northwest Omaha location near 158th and Fort Streets online, where KMTV obtained it, but it no longer appears there. DHHS has not responded to an inquiry regarding why this agreement is no longer available on its website. It is unclear if the agreement remains active.

It quotes Nebraska regulations: “Any individual who is under investigation for abuse, neglect, or sexual abuse of a child or vulnerable adult must not be left alone with children until the investigation is completed and the findings are determined.”

In the Saturday letter, Kelli wrote that DHHS actions like interim licensing agreements can be misconstrued.

“It is important for parents to understand that if the Department believed that any situation at a child care facility presented an immediate and unreasonable risk to the health, safety or well-being of children, it would not institute these types of measures,” she wrote.

There have been at least two other agreements barring others from being alone with children since 2020, according to DHHS records. One from early 2020 was filed under the southwest Omaha location. Another, for a third individual, began on Jan. 5, and is filed under the Elkhorn location.

On Feb. 9, parents of a 5-month-old girl said they found “three areas of bruising” on the girl’s head after picking her up from the northwest Rosewood Academy location, according toan Omaha Police Department incident report. The parents took the child to Children’s Hospital, who called the police, fearing child abuse, according to the report.

An OPD spokesperson said an investigation is ongoing and no arrests have been made, and the department cannot provide more details. The police report does not mention any possible suspects.

An earlier letter to families, dated Tuesday, March 23, emphasizes that there is no “investigation for abuse of any kind.”

It is a “nuanced event which did not involve any injury to a child, raised voices, or abuse of any kind,” Kelli wrote in that letter.

A DHHS spokesperson said they could not comment. Rosewood Academy did not respond to requests for comment, except to confirm the following three letters were sent to families.

In the Saturday letter to Rosewood families, Kelli writes that some allegations have come from an employee that was fired “after learning that she made comments and gestures to other employees that we believe were inappropriate and that children may have overheard or seen.” Kelli wrote that that that former employee’s claims are “baseless.”

Below is a breakdown of each substantiated issue noted in DHHS inspection records since the beginning of 2020.

Feb. 13, 2020, northwest location: DHHS found issues related to record keeping.

March 2, 2020, southwest location: An employee handled children too roughly, according to DHHS records. Three employees or former employees said they saw a coworker be too rough with children. A former employee told the inspector they quit because the director wouldn’t do anything about the employee being too rough with children. DHHS required the employee take two hours of outside training.

In the Saturday letter, Kelli wrote, “Nebraska regulations list seventeen specific forms of prohibited discipline, such as spanking, slapping, pinching, punching, shaking, striking with any object, abusive/profane language, use of mechanical restraints and ‘handling roughly.’ Handling roughly is essentially anything that is not something else on the list; it is not hitting or striking or yelling, etc.”

April 30, 2020, northwest location: A director self-reported that the facility allowed a 3-year-old child on the playground unsupervised for three minutes. The report notes that two similar incidents occurred in 2019.

Dec. 22, 2020, Elkhorn location: An inspector noted that “more than one staff person witnessed inappropriate behavior by a staff towards children in care. Staff brought it to management’s attention with little or no response or ongoing concern or monitoring of that information by management or licensees.” The facility was placed on “Corrective Action Status” for six months. The plan of correction notes that an employee no longer works at the facility.

“Rosewood Academy has, in some instances, terminated a staff member’s employment as the result of the Department’s substantiated findings of a non-compliant activity,” the Saturday letter notes.

In Saturday’s Letter, Kelli wrote that the standard used by DHHS to substantiate claims is low.

“In reviewing an allegation of non-compliance, the Department is not required to make a finding ‘beyond all reasonable doubt’ or even by ‘clear and convincing evidence.’ The standard used by the Department to ‘substantiate’ reports of non-compliance is considerably lower. Rosewood Academy supports this because it prioritizes the safety of children and staff members above the interests of finding ironclad proof or evidence that might otherwise prevent the Department from carrying out its part in ensuring children’s safety.”