Day Care Workers Keep Jobs Despite Child Death, Safety Violations

Day care center says it will be vindicated

By Melissa Russo and Tom Burke
|  Wednesday, Oct 26, 2011  |  Updated 5:26 PM EDT
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    Two Staten Island child care workers are still on the job despite the city's child welfare agency's findings of “inadequate guardianship” in the case of a baby boy who died. 

    The father of four-month-old Jeremy Davila received an alarming phone call from the Kiddie Academy of Staten Island Day Care center on the evening of March 25. A little more than an hour later, Oscar Davila's baby boy was pronounced dead.

    Now, after seven months, Jeremy’s parents are still looking for answers as to what killed their son. They want to know why, on that March afternoon, Kiddie Academy workers did not check on their son for three hours and appeared to wait at least 17 minutes before calling 911.

    “Jeremy was an easy, happy baby,“ the baby's mother, Jeanette, told NBC New York.

    Records obtained by NBC New York indicate workers at Kiddie Academy were familiar with Jeremy’s afternoon routine. 

    Daily logs show workers had direct contact with the baby about every 45 minutes, involving feedings, diaper changes and naps. The logs also show Jeremy would sleep no longer than about 45 minutes to an hour at a time.

    But on the day he died, the daily log from Kiddie Academy shows Jeremy was put down for a nap at 2:30 p.m.  There are no further entries, indicating Jeremy was not checked at the usual intervals.

    Workers told child welfare investigators they did not check Jeremy again until “approximately 5:30 p.m.,” according to a report obtained by NBC New York.  

    By then, the baby was cold and blue.

    A different report indicates Jeremy was found unresponsive at 5:40 p.m. (a 10-minute difference from the previous report), but the 911 call from Kiddie Academy was not made until 5:57 p.m.

    “That’s a red flag. What were they doing for 17 minutes?” asked Oscar Davila.

    An autopsy on Jeremy was inconclusive -- the exact cause of death listed as “undetermined.” The medical examiner did not find any signs of foul play or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

    Still, the Davilas are haunted by the thought that had Jeremy been checked sooner, maybe he could have been saved.

    “Maybe he was having trouble breathing,” said Jeanette Davila.

    While Kiddie Academy did report Jeremy’s death to the health department, records do not reflect any effort by the day care center to notify New York’s child welfare system, according to the state Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS). 

    The OCFS investigation into Jeremy's death was not launched until April 12 – 18 days after the boy died.

    According to Jeremy’s mother, it was a call from her that sparked that state inquiry.

    “They failed to supervise my son,” she said.

    Parents continued to send their children to the Kiddie Academy with no knowledge of the investigation's findings, which are considered confidential and therefore inaccessible to the public. And the workers who tended to the child are still employed there.

    The city Department of Health – the agency that oversees Kiddie Academy of Staten Island – said Monday morning in response to NBC New York's questions that it was conducting a full review of policies and procedures at the center.  

    By Monday afternoon, the statement changed to say a new plan was in place.  A City Hall source tells NBC New York the timing of the assessment completion was coincidental and not related to NBC New York’s reporting.

    However, a high-level source close to the investigation along with information given to Jeremy’s parents indicate there were two prior Corrective Action Plans submitted by the day care that were rejected.

    NBC New York contacted Kiddie Academy of Staten Island for comment and was sent a written statement.

    “Kiddie Academy believes that after a fair hearing the initial findings by OCFS against the caregivers will be vacated," the statement said. "The findings are not final. They were made without the benefit of a fair hearing, to which the caregivers are entitled, and without consideration of any medical evidence.”

    Kiddie Academy of Staten Island is a privately-owned franchise.

    The franchiser said in a statement that it has more than 15,000 children in the care of its franchises nationwide.

    "We provide a ‘Safe Sleep’ policy to all of our franchisees that meet or exceed local and state childcare regulations. This is the guiding principle in our training and materials provided to franchisees and their staff. We provide support to all of our franchisees in the continuing education of staff and new or changes to best practices in the care of infants."

    "Jeremy’s death is something that continues to profoundly and deeply sadden us all," the statement added.

    Jeanette Davila, meanwhile, wants something positive to come out of Jeremy’s death. She suggests new rules that require cameras in daycare facilities and a grading system, similar to the one the city uses to rank restaurants.

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