25 Investigates uncovers hundreds of people with criminal records to provide childcare in Mass.

BOSTON — Cocaine and Fentanyl ‘Trafficker’

The state agency that regulates Massachusetts daycares allowed a home daycare owner in Boston to keep her license after it was discovered she had been indicted on federal drug trafficking charges, according to a source inside the agency. The source, who spoke to 25 Investigates on the condition of anonymity said Jenny Vicente-Desoto received a “discretionary” background check approval in 2022.

“Discretionary” background check approvals can be granted to childcare providers found to have criminal records or supported findings of child abuse or neglect from the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (DCF).

Vicente-DeSoto ran Marjeli Childcare on Harrison Avenue for nearly 5 years after she was indicted in federal court in Rhode Island in 2019 for her alleged involvement in a “large scale” drug operation that moved shipments of cocaine and fentanyl from Mexico. She offered “a safe haven for the drug distribution at the Boston area daycare which she operated,” according to her sentencing memorandum.

Vicente-Desoto’s lawyer declined to speak about her case when contacted by phone.

EEC Disputes Approving ‘Drug Trafficker’

The Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) disputes that Vicente-Desoto’s criminal charge appeared in a background record check. A spokesperson said law enforcement first notified the agency of the drug case in early 2024, and EEC took immediate action against Vicente-Desoto’s license. Her daycare has since closed.

The agency relies on local, state, and federal law enforcement to notify them of criminal activity that puts children at risk so the agency can respond accordingly during three-year background record check cycles, an EEC spokesperson said.


25 Investigates discovered that 500 home daycare providers with open or closed criminal cases have passed EEC background checks since 2020, according to data obtained through a public records request. The request sought the number of “discretionary” background check approvals granted to licensed providers with criminal records in 2 of the 5 regions EEC oversees statewide. The Northeast and Greater Boston regions cover most of the eastern part of Massachusetts but exclude Cape Cod.

EEC gave “discretionary” background check approval to 150 home daycare providers with criminal records in 2023. 44 people found to have committed criminal offenses were approved in the first 3 months of this year, according to EEC records.

An EEC spokesperson said federal law gives states the ability to determine if an individual can provide care for and have responsibility for the safety and well-being of children for charges beyond the mandatory disqualifications.

Mandatory disqualifiers include rape, murder, and kidnapping. Discretionary offenses range from blasphemy to felony weapons charges.

When conducting background checks, EEC is required to search state and national criminal offender and sex offender databases, DCF findings of abuse or neglect, and out-of-state history where applicants have lived in the past 5 years.

Assault and Indecent Exposure Charges

A source provided Investigative Reporter Ted Daniel with documentation that shows a former licensed daycare provider received EEC background check approval despite an assault charge. And a Lawrence man told Daniel he was licensed despite a 1995 indecent exposure charge.

“They asked for the CORI,” the Lawrence man said referring to Massachusetts’ name-based criminal record check or Criminal Offender Record Information.  25 Investigates is not naming him because he’s no longer affiliated with a daycare.

EEC said 75% to 80% of the home daycare providers who received discretionary background check approvals have low-level charges like underage drinking, larceny under $250, and driving without a license.

$900 Bill for Records

When 25 Investigates requested to know the more serious charges the estimated 100 other providers in the Northeast and Greater Boston regions were approved with, the agency said it would take 40 hours to compile the information and cost $900.00. Massachusetts public record law allows state agencies to charge for any work estimated to take longer than 4 hours.

“The cost should not be such that it has a chilling effect or an obstructive effect on transparency,” said Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R), Gloucester

Sen. Tarr said a person with a low-level or decades-old criminal offense on their record should not be immediately disqualified from providing childcare, but he said the vetting should be thorough and with caution.

“It’s a little bit concerning, that there are that many individuals, who had to go to another level to be able to be approved,” Tarr told Daniel, “We need to make sure that if someone has made a transgression, it’s not a transgression that continues to influence them in the future.”

EEC said it’s made significant updates to the agency’s background record technology in 2022 and continues to transition background record checks from a largely paper-based process to a new computer system.

EEC Audit

In 2022, then Massachusetts State Auditor Suzanne Bump released findings from an audit of EEC.  The audit found the agency “did not ensure that all required BRCs (background record checks) were performed for employees at its licensed group care programs.”

The report recommended that the EEC “develop and implement policies, procedures, effective monitoring, and periodic evaluations of internal controls to ensure that employees have BRCs.”

State Auditor Diana DiZoglio, who was elected in 2022, is currently conducting a new audit of EEC after she said her office received, “significant complaints” about the agency.

DiZoglio was unable to release any of the findings from the current audit because it’s still in process. She said background record checks are one focus of the review and EEC has been working, “in a spirit of cooperation.”

“It is unacceptable when an agency like Early Education and Care drops the ball on ensuring that they are doing everything to protect children and our communities,” DiZoglio told Daniel.

Interview Declined

25 Investigates requested an interview with new EEC Commissioner Amy Kershaw, who was appointed in March 2023.  A spokesperson sent a statement instead.

“Ensuring the health, safety, and well-being of children at licensed early education and care programs is the top priority of the Department of Early Education and Care. EEC has been engaged in a significant reform effort over the past several years to modernize and improve the agency’s background record check process and continues to address areas for improvement,” the spokesperson said.

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