State: Daycare provider accused of abuse operated illegally

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KNOX COUNTY, Tenn. (WVLT) -- A Knox County woman faces multiple charges, including child abuse, after a grand jury saw evidence in the case, according to a release from the Knox County Sheriff's Office.

Cari Riffey is accused of aggravated child abuse, and Stephanie Galyon told WVLT News her son Jace is the victim. Galyon said Jace started attending Amazing Grace in home daycare in Seymour back in 2017 when he was six-months-old.

"I wanted an in-home daycare because you just feel like you're safe," Galyon said of Riffey, who came highly recommended. Galyon said she gained further confidence in Riffey's ability to care for her child after she said she learned Riffey was a children's pastor at a church in Strawberry Plains.

However, in April of 2017, Galyon said Riffey called to report that Jace was unresponsive. "[Riffey said] He was breathing but he couldn't hardly cry, it was just a weak whimper," Galyon said.

Galyon's husband, Keith, arrived on scene at the same time as ambulances. "He wouldn't open his eyes," Keith said. "I was trying to talk to him and he was almost unresponsive. But he had this little whimper, like you could tell something wasn't right."

An ambulance took Jace to the hospital where Galyon said he spent more than 50 days in the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) where he was on a ventilator for weeks, underwent multiple brain surgeries, and even spent time on life support.

She said her son, now two-years-old, is blind, developmentally delayed and can't walk or crawl. "He almost died," she added.

Riffey visited Jace in the hospital, according to Galyon. But, once doctors determined Jace's injuries were caused by shaken baby syndrome, Galyon said she refused to allow Riffey to continue her visits.

"She come into the hospital and saw him before I realized it was shaken baby syndrome. Once doctors told me it was shaken baby, I refused to let her back in," Galyon said.

Cari Riffey was charged with aggravated child abuse, neglect and endangerment. According to KCSO, she was held on a $50,000 bond. Galyon said, "I don't feel like she should have a bond. I'm happy something's being done don't get me wrong but it's not enough to justify what happened to him."

Riffey has a court date set for December 5.

On April 13, 2017, the Tennessee Department of Human Services visited 721 Knight Rd. in Seymour, where Gaylon said Amazing Grace child care is located, after a tip from the state's Department of Children's Services. DHS confirmed Riffey as the owner of the home daycare, and said they found seven children in the home. State law requires a license for providers that care for more than four unrelated children at a time.

On April 17, DHS conducted a follow-up visit, and said Riffey was in compliance with state law.

On Tuesday night, the Tennessee Department of Human Services told WVLT News they had "no records of finding an illegal child care operation at 721 Knight Rd.," but Wednesday said that earlier information was incorrect..

You can learn more about licensed daycares, including their violation history, by visiting the Tennessee Department of Human Services database.