Report: A shopping trip led to a daycare child wandering alone near a busy road

BELLEVILLE, Ill. – We now know what led to the shocking story of a toddler who wandered out of his Belleville daycare alone.

According to a Belleville police report and an Illinois Department of Children and Family Services investigative report, the daycare owner had to leave the daycare to buy grapes. This trip would have left a sick worker alone with 12 children.

In December 2021, a 21-month-old child walked away from an in-home provider alone. A stranger saw him crying. We interviewed the Good Samaritan last December when she said, “To just stop and see a baby, I was so shocked by that.”

She said she found the toddler a short walk from North Belt West. She added: “He was just standing there, just crying, and I picked him up like, ‘What’s wrong? Where are you from ?”

She said it took a while to find out where he came from. She described knocking on random apartment doors and asking, “Is anyone missing a baby?” She eventually learned that the child had strayed from daycare to a football field.

The daycare provider wouldn’t say much to FOX 2 at the time. Ladonna Tunstall said at the time: “I wasn’t horrified by it. I know the little boy was fine.

The investigation reports we have obtained provide more details. In a DCFS report, which we obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, a social worker wrote that the daycare owner said “…she left and crossed the street to pick grapes for the lunch “.

The report does not say whether the grapes, which are often considered choking hazards, were intended for children.

The report continued, “She left an assistant alone with 12 children”, and also, “She also leaves her assistant at one end of the house behind a closed door.”

A police officer wrote in his separate report that the worker left behind said, “I wasn’t feeling well, so I secured the front door and stayed in the toilet for about 3-5 minutes. (The child) broke the fabric strap holding the door in place and walked out the front door.

The daycare owner did not respond to our follow-up phone calls and text messages. The home daycare retains its Illinois license, with state DCFS warnings to maintain a good worker-to-child ratio and begin keeping attendance records.

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