KANKAKEE, Ill. (CBS) –The father of a missing toddler considered an “endangered person” by Kankakee police says the family fled the area with the child to protect him.

He talked with CBS 2’s Dana Kozlov exclusively.

That’s how Artie Fletcher explains his family’s disappearance — just as authorities were beginning an investigation into who or what caused the bruises on his one-year-old son Artistic’s thighs, behind and arm.

“I only did what a parent to protect their kid,” the father said in a telephone interview.

Last week, Fletcher says he and his wife, Kirsten, notified the state’s child-welfare agency when they noticed the bruises after picking up Artistic from the Jesus’ Lil Angels Daycare.

He says they took the toddler to the hospital. But when state child-welfare workers, who were already working with the family, told them they were taking all of their kids into protective custody, Artie says they left.

Monday, supporters of the Fletchers marched outside the daycare, demanding it be investigated.

In response, owner Anthia Winslow told CBS 2: “My concern is for the children. There were no bruises or marks on them when they came or left.”

Artie Fletcher says Artistic is safe and with his mother.

“We’ve called the Kankakee Police Department and let them know my children are safe,” he said.

A Kankakee police commander says they haven’t heard from the family but would like to talk to them to clear the matter up. He says right now, the daycare isn’t being investigated but likely will be — as will all parties involved.

For now, police say they just want to know little Artistic is safe.

Artie Fletcher would not tell Kozlov where he was. He says his wife won’t go to police unless she knows the kids will stay with her.

Watch & Listen LIVE