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'There's definitely emotional abuse' | Families push for stricter laws after unlicensed daycare operator faces no charges

The district attorney said April Barnard will not face any criminal charges because no children were physically harmed while under her care.

MORRISTOWN, Tenn — Brandi Gilliam is heartbroken because of the time her youngest son spent in April Barnard's care. 

"There are so many things she did wrong," Gilliam said after seeking evidence in the case. "All you hear is kids screaming, crying; her telling him to shut up."

At the time of the recordings, Gilliam's son was around 11 months old. She hopes he'll never remember it. 

"We will never know the extent of the abuse and neglect that she was doing to our kids," Gilliam said. "It's heartbreaking."

Authorities found 38 children inside Barnard's home when they visited last July. Many of them were in the garage where investigators observed a number of 'possible safety hazards' within reach. 

"I don't understand how a family could do that to your child or any other kid," Lakin Murphy said. "It does not look sanitary at all and our kids look distressed. It makes me want to cry."

Credit: Hamblen County Sheriff

RELATED: 'Literally child abuse' | Families frustrated after unlicensed daycare owner faces no criminal charges

10News asked District Attorney General Dan Armstrong whether he would be pressing any criminal charges against Barnard. He told us that without evidence of physical harm, there's nothing he can do.

"How anybody can look at that and say they weren't?" said Candi Hammer, a grandmother of one of the children. "Something's wrong with them. That's the way I see it."

Her grandson attended Barnard's program for around 5 years. She worries about the emotional damage he may have.

"Down the road, who's to say what psychological damage this is done to them?" she said. "You feel a lot of guilt for sending them there, but she put on a good show."

Barnard told investigators she had watched kids out of her home for more than a decade. Prior to that, she said she worked at a local daycare.

"Everyone talked highly of her," Kirstin Chambers said. "It's sad and it's sickening that anyone could do that to kids."

She and the other moms are frustrated that the current laws require proof of physical harm to prosecute. They're working with local lawmakers in an effort to change that.

"She neglected our kids. If it was me neglecting my kid, I would be charged for it. Why wouldn't a stranger or a caretaker?" Chambers said. "I want to see the law change ... we want justice."