COTTAGE GROVE, Minn. — A Cottage Grove daycare provider is charged with child neglect and operating without a license, and Washington County officials are filing a lawsuit in an attempt to shut her down. 

Prosecutors detail in a criminal complaint filed against 25-year-old Megan Martin how they became aware she was operating a unlicensed daycare by finding an ad on a website called Sitter.com. Investigators applied for a search warrant and went to Martin's residence in Cottage Grove on February 25. They were met at the door by Martin, who had 12 children in her care. Three of them were in a room still strapped in their car seats with blankets over them.

During the search officers learned there were no working smoke or carbon monoxide detectors in the home, and there was cat feces and dangerous chemicals within reach of the children.

Law enforcement searching the home noticed the smell of alcohol coming from Martin. She was given a preliminary breath test, which registered .12, well over the legal limit for driving. 

When questioned by detectives Martin allegedly told them she had been in business for five years, and had actively avoided getting a license. She also reportedly admitted to leaving the children alone while she took a shower, applied makeup and finished her morning routine. 

Following the executing of the search warrant, Washington County asked the court to have a temporary restraining order issued against Martin prohibiting her from operating a daycare while the legal proceedings unfold, and she acquires the proper license. 

Finding Safe Childcare

It can be hard to find safe, licensed childcare. Minnesota currently has a shortage of childcare providers. 

Parentaware.org, which is a website managed by the state, can help parents with their search. 

The site lists every licensed provider in Minnesota. 

"Basically, the site is a search engine," said Diane Benjamin, with Child Care Aware of Minnesota, a non-profit which, together with the Department of Human Services, manages the website. 

You put in a location, either your home or work, and the site generates providers within a certain distance from that location. 

You still have to call, and there's no guarantee on availability, but it's a safe place to start. 

Child Care Aware of Minnesota also staffs a phone line for people with more specific childcare needs. They can walk you through programs that can help. The number is 888-291-9811.