Like many of us, Vanessa Shackelford started this year with a resolution: start working out.
But because Shackelford is a single mom with a two-year-old child, she needed a health club with day care services -- like the Bally Total Fitness Center in Hyde Park.
"They advertised when you go sign up, you know, don't worry about the kids," Shackelford said. "These people have background checks."
Shackelford signed up for a personal trainer, costing almost $800. Her contract included "Kids Club" services. Babysitters would watch her daughter Trinity for up to two hours. Or at least, they were supposed to.
Shackelford says that when she went to pick up Trinity after a workout last month, Trinity had been left with five or six other children, without any supervision.
"When I found her she was soaked with urine, because no one was there to take her to the bathroom," said Shackelford. "She had five or six scratches on her face. "The scratches, she said, were apparently inflicted by another child while no one was watching them.
Trinity's mother says the day care supervisor eventually did return to the club, and she had a Walgreens bag in her hand. There's a Walgreens store right across the street from the health club.
Shackelford said, "In walks the attendant, wtih a Walgreens bag, and she kind of, she kind of slid in on the sidewalk and went right into the child care room, and we all looked at each other, like, "Did she just come from outside?"
When Shackelford complained, Bally Total Fitness investigated and fired the child care attendant. "Regrettably, an employee left the room briefly and for reasons that are unclear to us," the company told me in a statement. "We are sorry this occurred.....This behavior is unacceptable."
Shackelford also complained to police, who tell us the former Bally employee, forty-nine -year old Dorothy Berry, was arrested on Monday. She's charged with a misdemeanor, endangering the life or health of a child.
Police say security cameras confirmed her visit to Walgreens.
She had no prior criminal record, and so far has not returned our calls. But state regulators warn that health clubs aren't subjected to the same hiring standards as other day care providers.
Kendall Marlowe, a spokesman for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, said, "If we're dealing with unlicensed child care, there are things that I am just not going to know about that person. "
Marlowe says that unlike full-time day care centers, babysitting services at health clubs are not inspected or licensed by DCFS..
"The law states that if the parents are on premises for the entire time that the child is in that program's care, that the faciilty's program is exempt from the day care licensure requirements," Marlowe said.
So things like background checks and annual inspections are not required for day care services at health clubs.
In this case, Bally Total Fitness says it did perform a background check, but Marlowe says such background checks often are not as thorough as those done by licensed day care centers, which run their employees through the DCFS Child Abuse and Neglect Tracking System, or "CANTS" which includes credible complaints even when there are not convctions.
Marlowe said, "Therefore that person would not appear on criminal records, would not appear on a sex offender registry, yet that person mjight have done something very serious to harm a child."
Trinity Shackelford's mother says that with more and more health clubs offering babysitting services, it's time for the state to make sure they are safe.
"We want to be safe, when we are working out with the equipment," said Shackelford. " We want to be safe with the people that they hire."