Friday, February 23, 2018
Public safety

Largo day care on probation after leaving behind 11-month-old baby

LARGO — It was a Friday evening last month and staffers at a Largo day care center had locked up and gone home for the weekend.

But they failed to check all the cribs, and in one, an 11-month-old child was sleeping.

The boy's father arrived at 7:15 p.m., nearly 30 minutes after the last employee had left. When he couldn't get in, he called a day care supervisor and his son was freed, unhurt.

Still, the incident has landed the Largo KinderCare Learning Center at 3270 East Bay Drive on a six-month probation with the Pinellas County Licensing Board. Licensed facilities are inspected every six months. While on probation, KinderCare will be inspected monthly.

"It's completely unacceptable. These kinds of things simply can't happen," Pinellas County day care licensing supervisor Jorie Massarsky said.

KinderCare, a chain with 1,700 centers across the country, has locations throughout the Tampa Bay area. According to records, the Largo KinderCare has a capacity of 136 children.

In nine years as licensing supervisor, Massarsky said she has never once seen a child left behind inside a Pinellas County day care center. Day care employees are required by law to complete paperwork each day indicating that all children have been released to a parent or guardian. KinderCare employees filled out the form but didn't sweep the building, Massarsky said.

Staffers also failed to report the incident until the following Monday, resulting in another violation. In cases of suspected neglect or abuse, day cares must immediately contact the Florida Abuse Hotline.

The center received seven violations; two were critical.

Before the May incident, the Largo KinderCare had been cited most recently in January for an expired or incomplete medical release form, said Maggie Hall, spokeswoman for the Pinellas County Health Department.

No criminal charges were filed in connection with the forgotten child last month.

Center director Michelle Jones declined to comment but referred the Tampa Bay Times to a KinderCare company spokeswoman, Colleen Moran.

The employees involved in the incident have since been fired, Moran said.

"This incident was and is entirely unacceptable to us," she said in a statement via email. "Families at our center are extensions of our own, and we have taken this incident very seriously. We want to ensure nothing like this happens again."

Matt McKinney can be reached at (727) 445-4156 or [email protected]

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