Glendale day care had history of problems; toddlers found wandering outside

Published: Mar. 4, 2022 at 11:25 AM MST|Updated: Mar. 4, 2022 at 5:26 PM MST
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GLENDALE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -- The Glendale day care where several toddlers escaped through an open gate and wandered into a busy road Monday has a history of issues with unsupervised children, 3 On Your Side has learned.

According to state inspection records, there were multiple reports of children leaving their classrooms and wandering the hallways without supervision. In one case, a child made it to the kitchen and “grabbed a large knife from a drawer.” Reports also reveal several instances where the facility was not correctly tracking how many kids were on site. For example, a roster showed 11 children in the room, “however, only 10 children were present,” the report said.

In a separate incident, when a child fell from a swing and broke an arm, a report says, “staff members were seated along the northern wall of the playground and were unable to witness the injury happen.” They told investigators, according to the report, that they should “not have had (their) backs turned” and that they “should have been supervising the children on the playground in a better way.” State surveyors noted dangerous sleeping arrangements for infants and a fire exit blocked by a shelf.

According to Arizona state law, child care facilities must be inspected yearly, and Happy Dayz III has been checked 17 times since August 2019. The day care director declined to speak with Arizona’s Family on site, and the owner of the facility has not returned phone calls.

The toddlers who left the facility through the open gate were not hurt. On police body camera video, the manager at the day care tells officers she plans to notify parents of the incident. An officer is also heard reassuring her. “It happens,” the officer said. “Things fail. Nobody got hurt.” Glendale Police referred the incident to the Arizona Department of Health Services. A spokesperson for ADHS could not immediately confirm whether they notified parents of the incident or whether the facility’s license was in jeopardy.

ADHS’ website says the Bureau of Child Care Licensing uses “progressive enforcement when evaluating concerns at facilities” and evaluates things like the number of deficiencies, repeat deficiencies, actual harm, and potential for injury. “Surveyors work with facilities to assist in understanding why deficiencies have occurred and participate in the resolution to help the provider develop a plan that explains how these issues will not happen again,” ADHS said on its website. It notes the agency can assess civil penalties, limit hours of operations, temporarily suspend licenses, and revoke licenses.

All inspection reports for child care facilities are available online. The public database can search by a facility’s name, an address, or a zip code. Reports include information about deficiencies, and any civil penalties levied against the facility. To find reports, click here. ADHS sent us the following statement:

What happened at this facility is every parent’s nightmare. The health and well-being of children is our highest priority in licensing oversight of child care facilities. ADHS staff will investigate and will require the facility to correct any identified caps in following licensing rules. If violations warrant it, ADHS may issue a notice of intent to revoke a facility’s license.

Our staff conduct compliance surveys annually and perform complaint investigations with the goal of ensuring that any identified gaps are corrected. State law defining our licensing role does not grant us authority to criminally charge (that is the domain of law enforcement agencies). The process followed to ensure compliance with relevant licensing statutes does not include parent notification.

Beyond issuing citations and ensuring that corrective actions are taken as a result, ADHS may issue a notice of intent to revoke a license. In nearly all cases in which we issue such a notice, agreements are reached that bring facilities into compliance. In the past year, ADHS has issued three notices of intent to revoke the licenses of child care facilities. Two led to settlement agreements that brought facilities into compliance. One resulted in license revocation for a Laveen child care provider under the name of Jensy Manzo Nido.

Steve Elliott with ADHS