Wednesday, October 8, 2003

State cites daycare owners

Infant that died there left alone too long, officials say

By Jim Hannah
The Cincinnati Enquirer

INDEPENDENCE - Owners of a day care center where an 8-month-old died last month in a crib have been cited for leaving the infant alone for more than two hours - a violation of state regulations.

Owners of Roni's Daylight and Nightlight Child Care also failed to provide adequate supervision to the other six children in their care on Sept. 18, a Cabinet for Health Services investigation has concluded.

Leah Gabrielle Roark suffocated, her head stuck between slats in an outdated crib, after being left alone for more than two hours in a dark, 7-foot by 10-foot closet, which had been converted into a makeshift nursery, a Cabinet for Health Services investigation concluded.

It wasn't the first time the day-care providers had been cited for improperly supervising children in their care. In November 2000, an investigator with the health services cabinet noted in a report that the owners allowed an infant to sleep in the closed closet without a staff person in sight.

The cabinet released its initial findings into circumstances surrounding Leah's death Tuesday as state and local officials continued their probe.

The cabinet could use its investigator's findings to permanently revoke the day-care operators' license, which has been suspended since Leah died. Prosecutors could use the findings to pursue criminal charges.

Jim Rogers, who co-operates the in-home day care with his wife, Revonna Rogers, called the state's findings "trumped up." He defended the quality of care at the facility and said he plans to fight any attempt by the state to permanently close the business.

"How can they make these claims when they didn't even inspect our home?" Rogers said. "They just came in and talked to us. That wasn't enough to draw the conclusions they reached."

The cabinet investigator's 13-page report listed several violations, most concerning a lack of supervision of children. The investigator's report included the following citations: The day-care owners failed to get proper state fire marshal approval to operate. They did not provide beds for all of the children. They did not have proper developmental programs for the children. They did not assure that the staff remained awake during the hours children were in the center.

On Sept. 18, the supervisor-to-child ratio did not meet state regulations, according to the investigation. The inspector concluded that on part of that day, only one adult was supervising seven children, ages 8 months to 7 years old. State regulations call for one adult to every five children in that age range.

After the day care was cited in 2000, the Rogers' submitted a written plan to the state to address the supervision issue. The plan said that, from that point forward, the closet door would be kept open and an adult would be in the adjoining room if an infant were asleep in a crib placed in the closet.

"Based on (our investigation), the director failed to adhere to her written plan, failed to provide adequate supervision and failed to maintain an alert/awake staff person with the children in her care," the cabinet's investigation states.

Rogers said he and his wife just received a copy of the state's report on Monday, and have not had enough time to respond to the accusations. He did, however, respond to the charge of improper supervision.

"They just keep saying we didn't provide proper supervision," he said. "We have a central couch where we can see the kids in the other two rooms and hear the nursery... We knew the whereabouts of the children and were within range of their voices."

Mrs. Rogers told investigators she used a baby monitor when an infant was asleep in the nursery and older children were watching a movie in the den. The investigator concluded a monitor was not adequate supervision in a day care, as outlined in state regulations.

Mr. Rogers also said the state inspector "ambushed" his wife.


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