Glendale day care fined $1,700 after 7 toddlers escaped for nearly 6 minutes

Happy Dayz III in Glendale, where seven toddlers escaped through an open gate and wandered into a busy intersection, has paid a $1,700 civil penalty.
Published: Jul. 19, 2022 at 7:57 AM MST
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GLENDALE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -- The Glendale day care where seven toddlers escaped through an open gate and wandered into a busy intersection has paid a $1,700 civil penalty for health and safety, supervision, and ratio violations, following a state investigation, On Your Side has learned. The facility has also completed the required training, according to a state report.

The Arizona Department of Health Services, which licenses daycare facilities, inspected Happy Dayz III following the February incident. The agency’s report reveals the children, ages 1 to 3, were gone for nearly six minutes without day care staff supervision. Investigators reviewed surveillance video from the facility, which has not been released. It shows the children exiting the playground gate. “As time progressed,” the report says, “the children continued to move in and out of the open gate, playing on the stairs and exploring the van parking area and East landscaping area.”

Four minutes and 20 seconds into the surveillance video, investigators say “traffic is seen slowing and stopping.” At four minutes and 58 seconds, two women who were driving by are seen corralling the children to safety. At five minutes and 53 seconds, a staff member from the day care facility runs into the frame, according to the report.

On Your Side has learned the staff-to-child ratio was a contributing factor in the incident. State law requires one staff member for every six children. At the time of the incident, there was one staff member per eight children. One of the day care staff members told investigators, “There were 16 kids in my class. I took eight kids inside to change diapers and left eight kids outside with (staff). I kept the door open to the room so kids were coming in and out. By the time I saw them, they were with the lady at the gate. I had seven total (get out).”

In addition to a $1,700 civil penalty, Happy Dayz III is conducting ongoing training and making several policy changes, including mandatory safety checks of the playground. The day care has also added alarms and secondary gates, and they have removed playground equipment that blocked the view of the gate, according to ADHS. Happy Dayz III also told ADHS staff members are being written up for a lack of supervision.

As On Your Side has reported, Happy Dayz III has a history of violations involving unsupervised children and dangerous sleeping arrangements for infants. The day care administrator declined to answer On Your Side’s questions for this report. Child care facilities are inspected annually, even if they’re not facing complaints. Those reports are public and can be searched through the AZ Care Check site.