WARREN - The daycare center where a 7-year-old boy was left alone and locked in the building Wednesday was cited for several serious infractions by the state in the last two years, including one in March that alleges it failed to provide a state-mandated child-to-employee ratio.
Tots to Young Adults daycare, 725 Elm Road N.E., has been cited for six serious infractions during twice-annual checkups by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services since August 2010, according to a records search.
On Wednesday, James Norman, 7, who has severe autism, according to police reports, was locked in the daycare center by himself while employees took the other children to their satellite center - Cuddles, Hugs and Kisses, 140 Elm Road N.E. - and were planning to go to Perkins Park.
Tribune Chronicle / Adam Ferrise
Tots to Young Adults daycare in Warren is being investigated after a 7-year-old autistic boy was left alone.
Norman's mother, Brandi Norman, of Dickey Avenue N.W., told police she had scheduled to pick her son up at 7:45 p.m. When she arrived at the daycare, the lights were off and the doors were locked.
She said she then saw her son peeking out of the window at her. Norman said she tried to direct her son to open the door but it was locked with a deadbolt.
"Brandi stated she resisted the urge to break a window to get her son," the report said.
Norman tried to call two staff members but was unable to reach either. She called Cuddles, Hugs and Kisses and about 10 minutes later, reports said, employees pulled in with a large van loaded with kids and unlocked the door.
The boy was not harmed, reports said, but Norman told officers she yelled at the staff members because it is especially dangerous to leave her child unattended.
Norman said she withdrew her children from the daycare and was unsure how long he was left alone.
Warren police are investigating and have not filed charges. ODJFS spokesman Ben Johnson said they had not heard about the incident until contacted by the Tribune Chronicle. Johnson said state licensing specialists were assigned Thursday to look into the matter.
The daycare's owner, Rosalind Leavy, said the boy was hiding from workers and that they performed a headcount before leaving to take another child to their other daycare.
She said employees checked both the kitchen area and bathroom before they left. Leavy apologized for the incident.
"Both of my workers are feeling bad already. I feel terrible," Leavy said. "I talked to the father this morning. He knows this kind of stuff never happens. Unfortunately, they ran down to drop a kid off. We don't do this. We always do a headcount."
Leavy said she reprimanded her employees.
"It was an accident," Leavy said. "We have been watching that boy since he was a baby. I'm sorry that it happened. I can understand her being upset. She's a mother. I expect that. I'm a mother too."
JFS could levy penalties against the daycare, including revoking its license. Other options include an immediate takeover by the state until the daycare complies, or they could give the daycare 30 days to correct any violations they find.
A search of JFS records shows Tots to Young Adults is currently in a state of non-compliance with the state regulations because they have failed to address citations by the state and one case where an employee struck a child.
JFS gave a serious non-compliance citation to Tots to Young Adults on March 20 for having only one adult present with 22 children because a staff member was late for work. Records show they were supposed to send the state a corrective action plan by April 19 but have failed to do so.
In July, they were cited for a similar serious infraction, for having eight children with only one staff member in the building.
"Generally speaking, if it's a serious-risk non-compliance issue that could have direct health or safety risks, we require immediate corrective action," Johnson said. "If there are enough non-compliance issues, we could move to revoke the provider's license."