A new Pettis County daycare center is causing concerns as it prepares to open within feet of a facility housing multiple sex offenders.
Lil’ Mouse Academy Daycare and Preschool is in the process of opening next to Four Seasons Living Center, 2800 Route TT. The skilled nursing facility hosts 11 convicted sex offenders, several of whom have committed crimes against children.
Four Seasons administrator Brandy Arment said nine of the sex offenders living at the facility are allowed to walk out of the building unsupervised. These particular offenders don’t have a court-appointed public administrator to limit their activity, so they have a legal right to exit the building.
“They can go to the front desk, they sign out, they can do what they want,” Arment said. “If it’s going to the grocery store, if it’s just walking around the park, it’s whatever they want to do. Just like you or I can walk out the front door, they have the right to do the same thing.”
Under state law, a daycare opening next door wouldn’t force the 11 offenders to move out. But, Four Seasons would be prevented from accepting any more sex offenders to live at the center.
Registered sex offenders are prohibited from moving within 1,000 feet of a daycare, but a child care center is free to locate next to an offender’s home in Pettis County.
The daycare is only 5 feet away from the northernmost wing of Four Seasons. The daycare’s back playground, which is already furnished with play equipment, has a 6-foot, chain-link fence surrounding it. Nothing has been set up that would impede the full view of children in the yard.
Lil’ Mouse Academy owner Angela Nichole Galvez didn’t answer a call from the Democrat for comment. Arment said the daycare hasn’t responded to any of her calls or messages, either, though she has tried to make the business aware it’s moving next to residents with a history of sexual offenses.
At least eight of the offenders living at Four Seasons have been convicted of sex crimes involving minors, including sodomy, child molestation and forcible rape. Three have been convicted of sexual misconduct with children in the daycare’s age range of 6 weeks to 5 years old.
“I wouldn’t want somebody to go over there and something happen,” Arment said. “Not only do I want to protect the residents I have, but I have to have some forethought into these children and the things that could happen or what they could possibly see.”
Pettis County doesn’t have planning and zoning ordinances to regulate where a business is allowed to locate. County officials have no authority to deny the ability to build on private property, according to Pettis County documents.
The Four Seasons administrator said she has contacted the Missouri Department of Health and Human Services, which is processing the daycare’s request to become a licensed child care center.
Lil’ Mouse Academy still has a license application pending with DHSS, according to the agency’s public information office.
The daycare has applied to operate a child care center for 26 children from 6 weeks to 5 years of age. None of the department’s licensing rules specifically forbid proximity to sex offenders.
However, the rules require the premises be “safe and suitable for the care of children.” Failure to ensure compliance with child care rules is grounds to deny a license, according to the public information office.
Arment said she first heard about the possibility of a daycare opening next door about four months ago. A Lil’ Mouse Academy sign and playground equipment have appeared outside the building.
Many in the community might confuse Four Seasons as a nursing home reserved for only elderly residents, Arment said. The facility does provide geriatric care, but mental health services make up a key portion of the center’s clientele.
The facility’s 11 registered sex offenders have all been referred and placed at Four Seasons, where they receive medication and supervision while inside. Some of these residents receive mental health treatment.
A few of the offenders live in a secure unit of the building behind two sets of locked doors. Most, though, are legally allowed to sign out and leave for the day, if they choose.
Four Seasons is the only skilled nursing facility in Pettis County where sex offenders can live. Once the daycare moves next door, any new sex offenders in Pettis County would be forced to find a facility in another county or live in a house or apartment.
The offenders receiving mental health treatment often need help managing their psychiatric medications, assistance they couldn’t receive while living in their own home.
“That could have a big impact, especially on the Sedalia community,” Arment said. “Where are they going to be? If they can’t find placement for them, they’re going to have to put them in apartments in the community.
“I would never choose between children and psych residents. I think a community needs to come together and say, ‘OK maybe this isn’t the best option for our community putting daycare here.’”