Largo KinderCare on probation after leaving baby behind

5:41 PM, Jun 18, 2013   |    comments
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Largo, FL -- It's an almost unbelievable case of alleged child neglect in Pinellas County.

The KinderCare Learning Center on East Bay Drive in Largo is on probation now, after an 11-month-old was forgotten. The child was left behind inside the daycare center when workers locked the place up for the night.

The little boy is OK, but investigators say this sort of thing simply cannot happen. The most basic thing you do in daycare is count kids, they say. How many come in... and how many leave.

So imagine the shock -- if not the sheer panic -- one dad must have felt when he came here on May 10 only to find the place closed and his infant son locked inside.

"It's very upsetting. I expect people to do the right thing," said Pinellas County Day Care Licensing Supervisor Jorie Massarsky.

In her 23 years as a childcare professional, it's cases like this that make her blood boil.

"It's very disturbing and it's something we certainly don't want to see again in our county," said Massarsky.

Investigators confirm that on Friday, May 10 around 6:45 p.m., workers at the KinderCare Learning Center in Largo shut off the lights, locked the doors and called it a day. They failed to realize a baby was still sleeping in one of the daycare center's cribs.

"The complete premises were not visually swept, even though the center closing log was signed," said Massarsky.

Investigators say the child's father, who was running about 25 minutes late, came to pick up his son and found the doors locked.

Fortunately the baby, who'd been sleeping, was unharmed and unaware.

Investigators say the incident, by law, should have been reported immediately, but wasn't until the following Monday.

That and the neglect allegation earned KinderCare Learning Center seven violations... two of them, critical. They've been issued a probationary license, giving them six months to get it right, or risk being shut down.

The Center's new director declined to comment, but county workers tell 10 News that some of the staff workers and managers on duty the day of the incident have since been fired. KinderCare has also submitted an aggressive corrective action plan, they say, and staff has been cooperating fully with regulators.

"That could have been a really bad situation," said Tony Polk, whose children have been coming to the center since 2008.

Polk, who's entrusted their welfare to the staff, says he noticed a large amount of turnover in recent weeks, but was never informed about the incident.

He believes he and other parents should have been.

"For you to bring this news to me two months later is disturbing," said Polk, "That's all I can really say about it."

County officials warn parents looking for day care to only use a licensed day care provider, and don't be shy about asking them for their most recent inspection report.

Already, KinderCare has implemented many of the county's recommendations. They've put more room between the infants' cribs so children can be seen easier. And the nursery has been moved closer to the front, where the babies can be watched more closely.

County inspectors say they will visit at least once a month for the next six months to make sure KinderCare does what it's supposed to be doing. If not, they could lose their license.

Pinellas County is currently revamping its website, but in a few weeks day care center information will be available online, they say, at www.pclb.org.

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