Justice for Mila | What every mother should know before taking her baby or child to a gym child daycare is a repost of Tammy’s account with what happened to her sweet little girl, Mila.
Before we started Blushing Rubies together, Tammy had a blog that she posted frequently on. The content was similar to ours: fashion, beauty, family, DIY’s, etc. About a year ago she and her baby had an experience at her 24 hr fitness gym daycare that she had to voice her opinion about because they were so shaken up over it. She used her blog as her platform to share their story and has since gotten an overwhelming response of love and support from readers everywhere. Due to the fact she is no longer active on that blog, she has forwarded any activity from her old blog to Blushing Rubies, and since then has still received so much interest in this incident. We strongly felt that we needed to bring it to light here, so that it is accessible for those who want to read about it.
The following is her post from August 5, 2015:
It has been nearly 2 months since our 6 month old daughter, Mila, was abused at the 24 hour fitness gym child care in Rancho Cucamonga, Ca. I want to warn readers that there are graphic pictures of Mila of her marked and bruised legs that are disturbing. My tears and baby kisses to every single one of her bruises (which was over 30) does not take away the trauma that Mila and our entire family experienced as she healed physically and emotionally. Mila has no voice, she is a baby, so I am speaking out for her. It is my goal to get proper licensing for these type facilities beyond the enticing and false advertising that moms can work out and leave their 6 month old babies with licensed personnel. Gyms get more contracts but at what cost? I want our children safe and to find justice for Mila even if it is to warn and help protect other babies and children through sharing our heart-breaking experience. Thank you in advance for reading and sharing with others to find justice for Mila and other babies and children. We are blessed to have wonderful friends and families who cried with us and prayed for Mila and our family as we went through this experience.
On June 13th I signed myself up for a 24-hour fitness gym membership at the Rancho Cucamonga location on Foothill Boulevard and Rochester Avenue. At the same time, I also signed my two youngest children up for the kids care center at the gym so that I could have them cared for while I work out. I was surprised that they accepted babies at 6 months old and assumed they knew how to take care of them since they allowed babies that young. I have 8 children and I have been blessed to be able to stay at home with them and raise them as opposed to working outside of the home and taking them to day care. As you are probably aware, the news channels often circulate “day care horror stories” that mothers cringe at watching because it’s sickening that someone would hurt an innocent child. I know there are good licensed day care and child care facilities that love the children, but I do not believe anyone can love your child as much as the mother does. The child care workers are sometimes detached and I believe this is how some children end up being abused.
On July 13th, I very trustingly left my baby that was 6 months old and my two year old at the child care facility at the 24-hour fitness location in Rancho Cucamonga on Foothill Boulevard and Rochester Avenue, obviously thinking everything would be completely fine and that my two kids would be safe. After all, they accept babies that are 6 months old, so I assumed that some screening, training and certifications were in place for individuals in charge of 6 month old babies. My husband and I discussed taking them there so I could have some time to get back in shape after having my baby and have a couple hours to do that each day. I told the employee where I would be in the gym thinking that they would come get me when my baby woke up if I were needed for any reason. She was sleeping in her car seat when I brought her in and dropped her off. About 45 minutes into my work out I felt promoted, with mothers intuition if you will, to go check on my 6 month old baby. I pushed the feeling away thinking. “I’m sure she’s fine, they would have come to get me if she was crying.” So I finished up and showered. I even put on make up and changed my clothes there thinking there were finally circumstances that would allow me a bit of time to myself while my children were cared for properly. I could have some “me” time and do something good for my body and get dressed for the day since being a mom of 8 that’s often not the case.
I felt refreshed and was excited to pick my two babies up from the child care at the gym and it had been approximately 1 hour and 20 minutes since I had dropped them off. My 6 month old baby was sitting on the hip of a young girl and had obviously been crying A LOT. She has a “v-shaped” birthmark on her forehead and when she cries it typically turns purple if she gets upset. I had never seen my daughters face look so distraught as when I picked her up from the child care facility. She looked pale and was essentially just staring off into space. I asked the worker, “What happened? How long was she crying for?” A female worker said she was crying for about 20-30 minutes. Then I stated, “Ummmm…ok why didn’t you come get me? I told you guys where I would be?” “We handled it,” she responded. I noticed a red line mark on the top of her left thigh and I asked if my two-year-old went to get her out of her car seat and possibly scratched her or something. I asked them, “Did Roman scratch her?” As I looked down at the mark on her leg, touching it, she says, “No, he was in his own world the whole time.” Then I said, “Why is her hand all green, did you give her a marker?” She said, “No, we gave her something like this (holding up a yellow tissue paper).” I was astonished at her response! Did she eat the tissue paper I wondered? Who gives a 6 month old baby tissue paper? They put everything in their mouth! I will say that the babies area is not to have any older children in it at all, according to what I have been told. They assure parents that your baby is in a specially-designated area that older children aren’t allowed into. I did notice that the 2 foot baby gate isn’t a big deterrent I guess, because we found out later (via video footage) that a 5 year old and a 12 year old were unsupervised while in there with my baby. The 12 year old had her hands on my daughters legs and feet while she was in her car seat.
I questioned the child care worker for what seemed like 10 minutes trying to figure out when she woke up, how long she cried and why they didn’t come and get me during that time. It seemed like the worker was trying to change the subject because when I was asking questions about my daughter she asked twice if I had a good work out. She also mentioned that they paged me twice when she was crying. I answered yes both times to the workout question, but I wanted to find out what happened to my daughter Mila. After all this interaction, I then left the child care area and talked to the front desk people for a few minutes letting them know I had some “me” time and was really excited to get to workout again after so long. When I went to my car and put Mila in her car seat, I remember a look of panic on her face that looked like she was trying to say, “Don’t leave me!” I reassured her everything was ok and didn’t think anything else of it. Mila then fell asleep almost as soon as we drove out of the gym parking lot. We drove through Starbucks to get some treats for my 10 year old and his friends for his birthday. When we got home Mila was sound asleep so I carried her and her car seat into the house and put the car seat with her in it on our blue couch in our living room. The boys at our home for the party were being picked up by moms and the last child was picked up at 2:55 pm. The door bell rang at 2:45 pm and our little dog barked and woke Mila up. The mother and I talked for a little bit as I got Mila out of her car seat. The Mother and I swooned over Mila and finally I said, “Well I’m exhausted, I’m going to feed Mila,” and me and the boys were going to watch a movie together quietly. She left at 3:00pm, I nursed Mila and right after I nursed her she spit up! “That’s strange,” I thought, since she does not typically spit up. I asked my two year old to get a diaper for me so that I could change Mila’s diaper. As he ran to get one, I leaned her back on my lap and she pulled her feet to her mouth and started to play with her toes. That’s when I noticed what looked like red cut marks all over the backs of her thighs, legs and ankles. There were two bruises on each thigh close to her diaper also. I said out loud “What in the heck?!”
I was in total shock, so I drove back to the gym arriving not quite two hours after I left. I was shaking and wanted some answers. I went in and asked to talk to the child care workers but they had all gone home at 2 o’ clock. The front desk workers asked why I needed to talk to them and I held my baby up and showed them her legs. They said wow they never seen anything like that happen. I said, “Maybe they had a watch on or bracelets that scraped her? She wiggles a lot when you hold her especially when she is hungry. She is breast fed and she gets feisty and maybe they were holding her really tight because there’s bruises and maybe they are finger nail marks from acrylics or something?” They said “We can call the gym manager” and I said “Okay yes, I want to talk to them and see video tapes from the child care area and I’m calling the police.” The gym manager called and said the employees don’t wear watches, no long finger nails, no jewelry at all. And there’s surveillance tapes that would be available to view for the police only until Monday and I would not be able to look at them. She also mentioned the video footage is very fuzzy and pixelated and assumed nothing would be proven anyway. The deputy sheriff came and after reviewing everything with him, he concluded that someone had abused my baby and he opened a criminal child abuse case at that time. I left the gym at 8 pm that night. Still in shock, I held my baby close thinking about all that had happened. More bruises started showing up as the day went on. What? In. The. World. Happened??? I didn’t sleep at all that night. I held her in my arms. She still continued spitting up after I nursed her. Sunday morning at 7am I looked at her legs, the red marks were mostly gone leaving a scar type impression where the red lines were, but to my horror there were bruises everywhere the red lines were.
I quickly told my husband we need to go to the emergency room. I don’t know what they did to her. She had bruises on her stomach, the right side of her back and all over her legs. We raced to the emergency room, concerned that she had internal bleeding or damage, or that she could have been shaken. Hours later, after watching her and doing examinations, they let us know she had no signs of being shaken and that she seemed okay. They were unsure how she was hurt, but it looked like someone was pinching her over and over and over.
Monday morning the bruises were worse and the video tapes were reviewed by the deputy sheriff. One employee was wearing a watch and a 12 and 5 year old were unsupervised with my baby for at least 5 minutes. The 12 year had her hands on my babies legs but it’s not clear what she was doing. She could have been playing with her or she could have been unknowingly (I hope) giving her love pinches or pinching her to hurt her. I have no idea. My worst fear is that one of the workers was pinching Mila because she was crying, only making things worse and traumatizing my baby. The deputy specialized in child abuse and he said people actually hurt babies because they are crying and they don’t know how to get them to stop crying. He knows that this is a horrible thing that happened to Mila, but the fact that she was still alive was the most important thing.
I cried all day Sunday, Monday and Tuesday waiting to hear sometime if justice for Mila would happen in some way. The gym called and said they couldn’t see anything in the videos because they aren’t clear, so they took the position that nothing happened and anything could have happened after I left the gym during the roughly 2 hours that I was gone and then came back to the gym. The fitness manager Jordan told me no one was wearing a watch and they can’t even see Mila’s face in the videos to see that she was even crying. I said, “Why did they page me twice then?” She said, “They paged you 3 times and you didn’t come.” “Why didn’t they come get me? I told them where I would be.” She then replied, “Yes we’re talking to them about making sure they don’t do that again and instead get the parent.” That was surprising to hear to say the least.
The case has now been turned over to detectives at “crimes against children” and I have heard nothing from them for weeks now. I called CPS and they can’t help us because it’s not in a home where this took place and they said to call the licensing entity for child cares. I called them and they said gym day cares are license exempt! This was completely shocking! I called Trust Line, which is the company that 24-hour fitness uses to do back ground checks and they let me know there is no licensing for the gym and that the employees only need a background check. That’s it! That explains why Mila was given paper and unsupervised because there is really no formal requirements or process to interview, qualify and train these child care employees properly. This has been a very traumatic experience for our family to go through because its one of the worst things that can happen when a defenseless baby is harmed. The sad thing is that this could have likely been avoided if the proper protocols were in place to ensure a qualified person at 24-hour fitness was giving the care to my 6-month old baby. I hope something will be done to remedy this situation.
Tammy’s follow up post on January 2, 2016:
It has been 6 months since Mila was abused and neglected at 24 hour fitness gym child care area. She continues to be the sweetest girl and is very smart. Her giggle melts our heart. For about 3 months she was very scared when I would let someone hold her, especially if it wasn’t someone she knew. She would sort of panic and have a worried look in her eyes like, “Don’t leave me, mom!” It. Broke. My. Heart. Every time. After much reassurance and days of just holding her all day (which was totally okay with me) she now is comfortable being held by other people. Just recently at a restaurant, she was smiling and giggling to another patron waiting for their table and Mila even reached out to have the stranger hold her. It was super cute.
Through the sharing of Mila’s story, many people have reached out and sent sweet thoughts and words and many prayers on her behalf and our family. Many people have given good advice and referrals to law enforcement on how to handle the incident as well. I want to say thank you to everyone that has been so caring to our family and Mila.
I also took the advice of another blogger that left a comment on my blog sharing that while she was a young mom she took her children on walks in a stroller/jogger and hiked up big hills to work out. I appreciated that advice so much after this happened because it wasn’t just the suggestion, it was heaven sent, it came from a sweet angel and it was meant just for me at the moment to read it and be touched for what I needed to do in my life. I know it’s an option to work out with kids, in a jogger or workout at home, not in a gym, but I honestly didn’t want to. I wanted to drop my kids off have a moment to myself and let them play while I worked out. I needed extra motivation to actually get my butt exercising in the first place, not to mention packing up two kids, diapers, snacks in a double jogger ready to hit to trail hoping they were happy while I worked out. The thought of it all was enough to throw in the towel and not exercise at all! But her words came at the perfect moment, I took to heart what she said and felt inspired that this was probably what I needed to do in my life at this exact moment in time, I also felt that no matter how hard it may be to get it together and make it happen in the end it would be worth it, so I did just that. I have been consistently taking the two little ones in the jogger for my work out for months since school started for the older kids (recent weather has been raining and super cold – we Californians are such wimps when it come to “cold 60 degree” weather – so I’ve done work outs at home until just this last week). We would walk the older boys to school then I would roller blade (sometimes jog) along the bike trail. It has been the most rewarding thing not just physically, but getting to look down and see little Roman (3 years old) be so tender and sweet to baby Mila. He would share crackers, goldfish and his sippy cup with her, talk to her, hold her hand, share his batman with her and let her rest her head on him while she drifts off to sleep. It’s very relaxing to cruise along the bike path on roller blades and it’s a great work. Most days we stop at the park to play after as well. We go for anywhere from an hour to three hours! Sometimes we stop at the grocery store or target to pick up things we need. I see this as the silver lining about the whole horrible event. Precious, precious moments with these two that I would not be getting if I was working out in the gym. I would still be able to go on walks and do this but I probably wouldn’t have taken the time- sad to say- after I had already worked out for the day. A trip to the park would probably be once a week not almost daily how we do now.
Mila has now turned one and is honestly the sweetest little girl ever. She is quite the little trickster trying to stand up while riding her little friends bike (see below) and is so cute and happy as you’ll see in the pictures below. We are celebrating her birthday with family in the next week. We wanted to wait until all the holidays passed since her birthday is in December.
Update on the San Bernadino police department child crimes detectives: They researched the abuse and neglect that happened to Mila by one or more of 24 hour fitness’ employees, via camera footage and they closed the case based on not having proof to convict someone with criminal child abuse. In order for the employees to be questioned beyond a phone interview and actually interrogated and questioned in person, detectives would have to have evidence other than the bruises and marks all over Mila’s body. They looked at video footage on old camera equipment that has no sound and was pixelated. They saw several children holding Mila and interacting with her. 24 hour fitness has a policy that children aren’t allowed to play with babies or hold them and are in a separate area, however older children held Mila and one child entered the baby area had her hands on Milas legs while she was in her car seat. The employees stood and talked while this went on for 10 minutes, and the camera angle was not able to see Milas face to see if she was crying or happy during this time. At no point in the hour and 20 minutes Mila attended the child care was a camera ever able to see her face. Because the camera couldn’t see Mila’s face or her expressions, there was no proof that she was in distress.
Although the employees admitted that Mila cried hysterically for 30 minutes straight, admitting to only paging me and not trying to find me in the gym it wasn’t enough to question the employees more or ask questions to witnesses or other parents that came in and out of the child care. The detective also said he would have to see a grimace or an angry expression on the employees, or the children’s face who held Mila or see Mila being hit, spanked or beat in order to have evidence/proof that there was criminal intent to hurt her. But how could he on camera footage that was so pixelated, I asked. He replied, “I didn’t see anything that could convict someone of child abuse.” It is very disheartening that there was nothing else the detective could do.
No one was interviewed other than employees the first deputy talked to, who believed this was abuse and neglect, and wrote up his report as a criminal child abuse charge. 24 hour fitness didn’t close their child care or have different employees work during the investigation. No precautions were made for other children that attend the gyms child care. The 24 hour fitness gym in Rancho Cucamonga was extremely neglectful in their child care and hired employees with no experience taking care of babies. I would not trust the 2 female employees that were in charge of the children that day with anyone’s children. I have gotten a full refund for me and my husbands gym pass and I am in contact with “Trust Line,” the agency responsible for licensing gym, grocery stores and other places like Ikea. I will not stop until adequate camera, better policies, consequences to employees, not just background checks but experience and training in child care is mandatory at these type establishments.
I share our experience so that others will be cautious and avoid the hurt and pain Mila endured through this horrific incident. Luckily she will not remember what happened. As a mother I will always remember and I will carry the pain and the look in her eyes when I picked her up from the child care in my memory forever and the trauma her little body suffered. So very sad that there are terrible people out there. They will answer to God in heaven for the suffering they caused. I pray they do not do this again to another baby or child.
It is heartbreaking to re-hash this story over a year later but we feel it is important to know who you are leaving your children with! Tammy has tried to learn from from this and pull something positive from such a negative experience. She is still in the process of getting gym childcare facilities to use licensed, qualified people. It has been a busy year for them with the move from California to Texas, and she hopes to still be able to create a positive change.
xo, Lora & Tammy