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North Fayette Daycare Owned by Smallis Posed 'Serious Danger'

A Moon Township woman and former daycare owner was charged this month with owning child pornography. In 2010, the Department of Public Welfare shuttered her childcare service amid reports of child neglect and violation of state safety regulations.

Agents from the state Department of Public Welfare in 2009 found a yellow blanket spread across a bathroom floor at the Little Folks Child Care Center in North Fayette.

Childcare workers at the center would lay children on the floor to change their diapers with just the blanket beneath. No running water was available, and electrical wires hung from the ceiling of the Montour Church Road building. 

To use a restroom, older children passed by shards of metal and broken toys, walking up splintered, loose steps to reach a toilet on an upper floor, according to Department of Public Welfare documents.

The owner of the facility, Pamela Smallis, of Moon Township, was ordered to shut down the daycare in September 2010 after department inspectors said she failed to comply with numerous safety regulations. 

Two years after that closure, state investigators have now charged the 49-year-old mother with possessing and producing child pornography.

She is accused of owning 33 photos and two videos showing children engaged in sexual activity.

On Sept. 17, Smallis was charged with 34 counts of sexual abuse of children, 16 counts of unlawful contact with a minor, five counts of sexual exploitation of children, five counts of endangering the welfare of children, five counts of corruption of minors and one count of criminal use of a communications facility.

Smallis directed the nude minors and filmed the sex acts, according to a statement from the state Attorney General’s office.

In April, Moon Township Police charged the woman with a series of drug offenses following a lengthy investigation.

Smallis’ children sold marijuana and narcotics to police informants from her Stocker Drive home, and she would frequently bring them to drug sales in the township, police allege. Police said drugs were also sold on two occasions in Sewickley. 

She was telling them her name was "Mary Caldwell" after she was stopped for speeding down Steubenville Pike, according to police records. 

Anne Bale, spokeswoman for the Department of Public Welfare, said Smallis was not working in childcare at the time of her arrest. 

In addition to Little Folks, Smallis also owned the Children’s Palace Daycare on Indiana Avenue in Monaca, though she is no longer affiliated with the business. Management at the Beaver County daycare declined to comment on the matter. 

No child who attended Little Folks or the Children's Palace is a part of the investigation.

Department of Public Welfare investigators in 2010 said the Little Folks daycare posed “an immediate and serious danger to the life or health of the children” in its care, according to public documents.

From 2008 to 2010, representatives from the department found the center in violation of numerous state regulations for child safety. The department oversees childcare facilities in the state. 

Staff members interviewed said on one occassion in 2009, daycare workers got into a fight in front of children. One employee pushed another and the two shouted obscenities from across a nap room, department inspectors said.

Employees of Little Folks did not undergo background checks mandated by the state, inspectors found. 

In August 2009, Smallis hired a daycare worker with a conviction on a charge involving physical violence. The charge prohibited the individual from obtaining a Federal Bureau of Investigation clearance to work with children. 

The department ordered Smallis to fire that employee.

"The operator may not allow an individual to enter the facility if the operator knows that the individual has been convicted or is awaiting trial on charges involving the crime of child abuse, child neglect, physical violance or moral corruptness," inspectors wrote. 

The daycare did not meet staffing requirements. In April 2009, one unsupervised child walked out a back door and wandered alone in a parking lot for 15 minutes, according to the documents. 

Agents also said disciplinary measures taken by Little Folks staff were inappropriate.

“Food may not be withheld from a child for the purpose of discipline,” inspectors wrote to Smallis. 

Biting a child back after being bitten was also a regular form of punishment at Little Folks, according to inspectors. Physical punishment is prohibited at childcare centers in the state. 

Smallis agreed to remove employees who had not undergone background checks and review proper child supervision and discipline with her staff. 

Inspectors said a group of toddlers and preschoolers in 2009 played in an outdoor space where construction work took place nearby. 

“Ms. Smallis stated she has no intention of relocating the children at this time, and the children have been outside all day since (the inside of) the child care facility is currently under construction,” said an agent.

Children were at times within reach of construction materials and tools in the building. Electrical outlets were accessible and water leaked from the ceiling, inspections showed. 

In a letter dated Sept. 1, 2010, the Department of Public Welfare ordered “that all children be removed from the facility." 

Smallis purchased Little Folks' North Fayette location in January 2007 and still owns the property, according to Allegheny County property records.  

She is scheduled to appear Oct. 25 in Coraopolis District Court for a preliminary hearing on the child sex abuse charges. 

Click the PDF above to view the full Department of Public Welfare documents. 

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