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I-Team: How Safe Is Your Day Care, Part 2

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Captured by the lens of a CBS4 News undeocover camera, a day care worker at Naranja Prep Academy in Homestead turned her back to chat with a man outside the playground fence.

Undercover pictures showed a small boy as he tried to jump, then as he falls nearly six feet to the ground off the top of a jungle–gym. It is an event that goes unnoticed to everyone but the I-Team.

The crying little boy later was consoled by workers who were left apparently wondering what happened.

The owner of the day care, Wanda Rabelo, said she would take care of the incident.

“If you tell me who was the person I will fire them,” Rabelo told I-Team investigator Stephen Stock.

Stock asked “You’re that serious about it?”

“I’m that serious about it,” Rabelo said.

But Rabelo has been cited by Florida’s Department of Children and Families for 24 different violations of child care safety rules in the last two years, including one violation for allowing a gate to the playground to be open which then allowed children access to a road which lead right to busy US Highway 1.

“It was fixed,” Rabelo said.

Stock asked “There was never any chance of them getting in the road?”

Rabelo replied “No way. Never any chance.”

The CBS4 I-Team reviewed every inspection record for every day care in South Florida. That’s 10,425 records for 1,358 different day care locations.

We found violation after violation of simple, basic rules meant to protect children.

92 day cares in Miami-Dade and 44  in Broward County had each racked up 20 or more of the rule violations in two years.

We found day cares that had problems complying with the rules everywhere.  At the Baptist Church day care In Miami Shores the I-Team discovered 30 violations.

“There were 30 of them in just 2008. That’s a high number. Is there a problem?” Stock asked the pastor at the church. “No, no,” pastor Mark Bryant said.

Stock asked “Are the children safe? “

“The Health Department has okayed us,” said Pastor Bryant.

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

The I-team found another example at the day care at Hopewell Preschool Academy located at and owned by Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church in Pompano Beach.

Hopewell Preschool had 54 violations in the last two years, including a recent inspection report with two violations so serious they drew administrative fines from Broward County inspectors.

“What’s going on?” Stock asked.

“Well, if you give me  this information to review it (the inspection reports) I can respond,” said Hopewell Church’s Business Administrator, Nicola Martin. “But at this point right now I cannot respond to something I have not reviewed.”

Stock asked again. “Well, forgive me but this was done in July. You haven’t seen your own inspection report from July?” Stock said.

“I was employed in August,” Martin said.

In a statement later e-mailed to CBS4, the church said many of its violations came when it was just starting out and that no children were present for 18 of those violations.

You can read the entire statement by clicking on this link .

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

The I-Team found one highest numbers of violations in Broward County at La Petite Academy on South Douglas Road in Miramar, a franchise of the popular and prominent La Petite chain. But when we went to found out why, the director refused to let us into the day care to get an explanation.

“We’re investigating every day care in South Florida you’re in one of the top five in violations in Broward County,” Stephen Stock said. “61 (violations) with nine serious (violations as defined by state officials).”

“Okay,” came the response from an unidentified person inside the day care holding the door closed.

“I want to know why?” Stock asked.

“Okay,” came the response again.

The I-Team witnessed and videotaped problems at some day cares first hand. For instance, at Bethune Head Start, run by Miami-Dade Community action agency, which had 61 violations, the I-Team found gates to playground swinging open and free. The gates were easy to open even as children played in the background.

“Do we take  (the violations) seriously? Yes,” said Julie Edwards, the executive director of Miami-Dade County’s Community Action Agency. “We do. But in some cases every time DCF comes out there is something else that is pointed out. But we try to address those every opportunity we get,”

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

At Future Generations Preschool in Pembroke Pines, state records show a 2 year-old was left accidentally in a closet.

“Two year-olds are quick,” the day care’s owner, Karla Zingaro explained.

“Okay. So as she (the teacher) was putting the mats away the child just crawled in,” Zingaro said “As she closed it, she did not see him sneak in (to the closet).”

The child was found 10 to 20 minutes later by supervisors as they gave another parent a tour of the day care and showed the closet where the sleeping mats were stored. When they opened the door they saw the child, still sitting, locked in the closet.

“That child is still in my school,” Zingaro said.

Zingaro reported herself to Broward County child care inspectors because she knew that was a violation and she “wanted to do the right thing and there was no question.”

While mistakes can happen, state child care inspectors say some the numbers the I-Team found should be unacceptable to parents.

“Certainly 56 and 72 (violations) is egregious and it bothers us,” Suzette Frazier said. Frazier is safety program manager for DCF’s South Florida’s division. “And we take it seriously.”

Some of those day cares with troubling inspection histories later sent us explanations via e-mail. We posted their entire responses on links accompanying this story.

And you can find an interactive map with details of inspection reports for every day care in South Florida, dating from August, 2006, until September 30 of this year.

You can also click on the website for Florida’s Department of Children and Families where this data originated. There you can find the full inspection reports for any day care in Florida.
(© MMX, CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.)

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