I-Team: How Safe Is Your Daycare?

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CBS4 Investigates
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The CBS4 I-Team compiled two year’s worth of state and county inspection records for every day care in South Florida and discovered dozens of day cares that have trouble complying with basic rules designed to keep children safe.

You can search that data on an interactive map prepared with the help of experts from the National Institute of Computer Assisted Reporting (NICAR) and Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE.)

Just click on the link accompanying this story and search for day cares and their inspection records, by name, county or street address.

I-Team Links
Search for data on your Daycare in the CBS4.com Interactive Map
Summary of CBS4 I-Team Daycare Investigation Findings
Read a response from La Petite Academy
Read a response from Hopewell Baptist Church

“To this day I don’t feel I have good understanding of what happened,” parent Gloria Cantens-Purchon told the I-Team of her child’s experience at a southwest Miami-Dade day care.

What happened to Gloria’s child this past September 2nd, would frighten any parent.

Gloria’s 2 year-old daughter, Sofia, walked away from Riverside Baptist Child Development Center.

Sofia was later found by strangers standing along a busy five-lane highway–104th Street SW.

When a stranger picked her up Sofia was only steps away from wandering into traffic.

“You know we could have been having a very different discussion today instead,” Gloria Cantens-Purchon told I-Team investigator Stephen Stock.

“I mean, I just,” and here Cantens-Purchon paused to fight back tears. “I don’t even want to think about it.”

Perhaps even more disturbing to those familiar with the case was the fact that no one at the day care noticed Sofia had gone missing until the stranger who found her along the street returned Sofia to the day care.

“I want to talk about your inspection records,” Investigator Stock asked after he went to Riverside Child Development Center to get an explanation.

The day care’s director dismissed the problem.

“That’s been taken care of that wasn’t an issue not being in compliance,” Riverside Baptist Child Development Center’s Patricia Stango Kerr said in response to Stephen’s inquiry.

But in fact, according to these inspection records Florida Department of Children and Families found Riverside in “NONCOMPLIANCE” twice for that incident when Sofia wandered away.

I-Team Links
Search for data on your Daycare in the CBS4.com Interactive Map
Summary of CBS4 I-Team Daycare Investigation Findings
Read a response from La Petite Academy
Read a response from Hopewell Baptist Church

And we discovered six MORE “Noncompliances” filed by DCF workers on other inspection records for Riverside Baptist Child Development Center on records dating back two years.

Day Care director Patricia Stango Kerr explained the inspection record in the case when Sofia wandered away as a mistake that could happen to anyone.

“In that particular case it was very unfortunate because the child student ratio was very good. It was a one to six ratio.”

I-Team investigator Stephen Stock asked “But the supervision wasn’t clearly (in compliance)?”

“Mistakes happen,” Stango Kerr said. “Mistakes happen with parents. And we do the very best we can.”

Investigation Summary
An exhaustive investigation by the CBS4 I-Team found Riverside day care isn’t alone in having “noncompliances” on its records.

In fact Riverside’s record of eight “noncompliances,”or rules violations, over two years, is actually a GOOD record compared to many other day cares.

The CBS4 I-Team entered EVERY single inspection record for EVERY day care in South Florida covering a two year period into a computer database.

That’s 10,425 records for 1,358 different day cares.

I-Team Links
Search for data on your Daycare in the CBS4.com Interactive Map
Summary of CBS4 I-Team Daycare Investigation Findings
Read a response from La Petite Academy
Read a response from Hopewell Baptist Church

Other examples
Another example, Kids Learning Center of South Dade #2, located off Carribbean Boulevard in Cutler Bay, where a 4 year-old boy on the playground was spotted by a shopper next door pulling down the pants of a 4 year-old girl. According to DCF officials, the shopper witnessed the boy trying to sexually assault the little girl. It all happened while the day care worker supervising the children had her back to the entire scene while on the cell phone.

So the I-Team went to the day care to find out why. “Can we talk to you about the problem?” I-Team investigator Stephen Stock asked the director while showing the inspection report with the incident’s description to her.

“I don’t know what the problem was,” director Christine Perry told the I-Team. Perry pointed out that she was not director at the time of the incident in January, 2007, She also didn’t know anything about the incident and Perry pointed out that the inspection reports showed that since she became director of the day care it had no “Noncompliances”.

Perry said she wasn’t even aware of the inspection report that described what happened. And the owner of Kids Learning Center of South Dade #2 refused to talk to us about the incident or other inspection reports.

I-Team Links
Search for data on your Daycare in the CBS4.com Interactive Map
Summary of CBS4 I-Team Daycare Investigation Findings
Read a response from La Petite Academy
Read a response from Hopewell Baptist Church

Day Cares with Trouble Complying
As for other day cares, the CBS4 I-Team investigation discovered:

136 day cares had more than 20 safety violations.
40 day cares had more than 30 safety violations.
11 day cares in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties had more than 40 violations.

You can find a detailed summary break out of what the inspection data by clicking on the “Summary of CBS4 I-Team Findings” link that accompanies this story.

We found the day care with the most violations, St John’s Tot Center, located on NW 3rd Avenue, in downtown Miami. During a two year period, St John’s was cited by inspectors for “Noncompliances” 71 times. That’s 71 safety violations –many of them repeated violations–during a two year period.

The director reacted with surprise when we showed her the records. “Seventy one. What!” St John Tot Center director Berdine Smith said when we showed her the records.

I-Team investigator Stock showed Smith the records while explaining, “It’s one (violation) after another after another, Stock said. “It’s like you don’t seem to be able to comply.”

Smith responded. “I comply with everything they tell me that in (needs to be in) compliance,” director Smith said.”When she (the DCF inspector) comes back.”

“You fix them?” Stock asked.

“I fix them,” replied Smith.

I-Team Links
Search for data on your Daycare in the CBS4.com Interactive Map
Summary of CBS4 I-Team Daycare Investigation Findings
Read a response from La Petite Academy
Read a response from Hopewell Baptist Church

Broward County Has Slightly Different Rules
Then there’s Cradles To Creativity, a day care located at a Lutheran church on Sunset Strip in Sunrise had the most violations in Broward County. The daycare is not owned by the Lutheran church, but by an independent contractor who rents space from the church. Broward County is different than Miami-Dade and Monroe Counties in that county Human Services inspectors monitor day cares, not state DCF inspectors.

Instead of using the term “noncompliance” inspectors in Broward County use the term “Fails to Comply” for violations to the rules on their inspection reports.

And instead of having 63 issues on an inspection record, as DCF does, Broward County inspectors only have 59 issues to check when inspecting day cares.

According to Broward County inspection records Cradles to Creativity, located at 1577 Sunset Strip, had 68 violations in two years.

When reached by telephone, the director of Cradles to Creativity refused to talk with us about the violations.

Even those people who do the inspections were surprised by the overall numbers showing so many noncompliances for so many different day cares which the CBS4 investigation found.

DCF Officials React
“I think it’s egregious!” said DCF child care supervisor Jeffrey Hurst.
Hurst is based in Miami and is in charge of day care inspectors for central Miami-Dade. Hurst has worked with Florida’s Department of Children and Families for 24 years.

“We have a job to do to ensure that between (ages) zero and five that these kids are in the safest under the minimum of standards that the state has set,” Hurst said.

For Gloria Cantens-Purchon, what might have happened to her daughter haunts her even after she moved Sofia to another day care with no violations.

“There’s no accounting (for where Sofia was) and I don’t like it,” Gloria Cantens-Purchon said. “I put my trust in someone.”

Again Cantens-Purchon fights back tears as she contemplates her little girl dying after walking into that highway.

“And it (that trust) was misplaced.”

Day Care Data Results on Web
Some of the day cares where we found violations responded to our investigation with e-mail explanations. You can find those explanations by clicking on the links accompanying this story.

I-Team Links
Search for data on your Daycare in the CBS4.com Interactive Map
Summary of CBS4 I-Team Daycare Investigation Findings
Read a response from La Petite Academy
Read a response from Hopewell Baptist Church

You can also find a link of a Summary of what the Data shows ranking the number of day cares that had trouble complying with the basic rules.

To help you find out about your nearest day care we’ve established a searchable map which lists every day care in South Florida and tallies the “Noncompliances” or “Fails to Comply” on the website.

The CBS4 investigation discovered that there were 222 day cares that had zero (0) violations.

The searchable map was put together by computer experts at the

National Institute for Computer Assisted Reporting (NICAR) and IRE (Investigators, Reporters and Editors) located at the University of Missouri in Columbia, Missouri.

NICAR’s director Jeremy Milarsky headed the project for us from Missouri.

CBS4 paid Milarsky and his team for their time and expertise in putting together this searchable map.

Experts in computer assisted reporting tell us this the first time any media has ever done a searchable map with this kind of detail anywhere in the country.

The map contains data of inspection records posted on the public website for Florida’s Department of Children and Families. The data captures a moment in time, a snapshot as it were. In our case, the data was converted from public records dating from January 1, 2006, through September 30, 2008. You can check out day cares in your neighborhood, or across the city, or anywhere in South Florida.

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