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

Investigators found 38 children in April Barnard's care last summer near 'possible safety hazards.' She wasn't licensed to operate a daycare.

MORRISTOWN, Tenn — As investigators searched April Barnard's Morristown home last summer, one was brought to tears. 

"Sixteen years of doing this job and I have never seen anything like this," one case manager with the Tennessee Department of Children's Services told the Hamblen County Sheriff's Office. "It's literally child abuse."

In one room, a report obtained by 10News showed five children were "asleep on towels." Authorities found another 23 children "in high chairs, bouncers and play pens in the garage with the light off."

Investigators said they found 38 total children in Barnard's care, including two of her own.

According to state law, you can only watch your own children plus four more without an applicable daycare license.

"I usually don't have as many. That's what I'm trying to explain," Barnard told authorities. "These are my number one. Like yes, there's a lot here, but I promise you these kids do not go without."

Credit: HCSO

Barnard told authorities in an interview that she typically watches 12 to 15 children a day, which is still above the state limit.

"With this many kids it's an actual... it should be an actual daycare," one investigator told Barnard. 

Barnard told them she's watched kids inside her home for 12 years. She doesn't have any employees, but her mom lives with her and helps watch the kids.

"Why don't you consider it a business?" one case manager asked.

"I don't know," Barnard replied. "I just kind of consider it like I babysit, do what I love, I don't know."

Reports from the Hamblen County Sheriff's Office and DCS show concerns over safety hazards like bleach, exposed outlets and how Barnard handled the children.

They also revealed Barnard "denies that she keeps any paperwork on the children," such as applications, attendance records, proof of immunization, emergency contacts or bookkeeping. 

Still, District Attorney General Dan Armstrong told 10News he is unable to press charges against Barnard because none of the children were physically harmed while in her care.

Therefore, there are no criminal charges he could bring against her.

The Department of Children's Services told us their special investigations unit has been looking into this case. That team typically looks at allegations of abuse of neglect in third-party settings, such as day cares.

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