Toddler's fingertip chopped off at daycare

Darcy Spears

Toddler's fingertip chopped off at daycare

CREATED Oct. 31, 2011

Las Vegas, NV (KTNV) -   When you place your kids in daycare, you place your trust there too.

But one family's trust is broken after their toddler is seriously injured at a local daycare center.

It's a place where Contact 13 uncovered a history of violations.

Now, Chief Investigator Darcy Spears asks why their doors are still open and who is watching our kids?

Two-year-old Anthony Ealy's life has in a way been altered forever.

"At the hand of folks that we trusted that he would be safe with," says Anthony's grandmother Jennifer Coleman.

"Oweee.  It got in the door," says Anthony, showing his bandaged hand.

On October 6, Anthony's mom, Melissa, got a call from a teacher at Tabernacle of Praise Learning Enrichment Center--or T.O.P. Kids--in the northwest valley near Buffalo and Alexander.

"And had told me that Anthony cut his finger really bad and you need to come and get him and take him to the hospital," Melissa recalls.

When she got to there, she found it was much worse than a cut.

"I pulled his hand out of the water and I saw that the tip of it was gone.  And I just freaked out."

Some of the children had been playing with a door and when it slammed shut, the tip of Anthony's right middle finger was severed.

"The girl that was there tending the kids didn't know to apply pressure to stop the bleeding, she didn't know to put the finger on ice," says Anthony's grandmother, who is a nurse.

"There was no other teacher there, and she was in charge of nine children.  Someone else should have been there," says Latisha Brown, a supervisor with Nevada's Childcare Licensing Division.

Brown tells Contact 13 that the 18-year-old teacher wasn't even licensed. She was in a probationary period because she'd only been working for about a month and hadn't even begun her medical training.

"They were understaffed, under-supervised, and what else did you find?" Spears asked.

"We also found that the door--we did write them up for that--the door was heavy," Brown answered.

It was a heavy, steel door which leads to the outside of the facility that Anthony and the other children were playing with. 

Licensing officials tell us the door had no alarm or any other kind of safety mechanism to prevent it from slamming on a child.

"Unbelievable!" says Anthony's grandmother, Jennifer.  "My question is how were they able to continue to function and operate this way without someone going in there and checking up on them prior to this incident?"

Contact 13 learned they have been checked up on.

Records we obtained show back in 2007 when they were regulated by the city, they were out of ratio with one staff member caring for 13 three- to five-year-old kids. That's more than double what the law allows.

The state wrote them up for lack of supervision in July of this year and again in September when they received a notice of violation.

"At what point does the state say you're done, no more license for you?" Spears asked Latisha Brown.

"We have to go through a process.  Sometimes... we have a policy that states after you do it so many times we have to see if we see improvement, so like anything we give them a chance to correct the situation because the last thing we want to do at a facility is displace children."

Contact 13 also learned T.O.P kids didn't tell authorities about Anthony's injury right away.

"I believe it was 24 hours later we found out about the incident and that's not acceptable," recall Brown.

Melissa reported the incident to Metro's Abuse & Neglect detail who immediately opened a criminal investigation.

We went to the northwest valley campus to check things out for ourselves.

We saw staff members who appeared to be hiding from us--holed up in a small room off the main room where there were a few kids' things but no real activity.

We caught up with the daycare director's husband--Pastor Michael Jackson--in the parking lot.

"Michael, I'm Darcy Spears from channel 13.  We're doing a story on what happened at the daycare center and we haven't been able to get any comment from you guys.  I'm wondering if you'd like to share something with us now.  No?  Can you tell me why you guys don't want to comment for the story?  Law enforcement says you guys should lose your daycare license over what happened.  You don't have anything to say?"

Neither he nor church first lady/daycare center director Kathy Jackson would talk to us.

We did obtain a letter they sent to parents two weeks after Anthony's incident where they say it's "the first time in all of our years of operations that we have had an injury of this sort. We will always continue to work with all agencies to ensure that we maintain a safe, healthy and compliant learning environment for our children."

That's not nearly enough for Anthony's family.

"They need to really look at this whole situation and ask themselves if this is the right business to be in," says Jennifer.

"Owwww.  Mommy, owweee," Anthony whines as his mom cleans and re-bandages the wound.

"I know, baby," she soothes.

Anthony's fingertip cannot be reattached.  Doctors can't even sew it up and he may need surgery in six to 12 months.

"It will never be the same," Melissa says.  "It will not grow back to where it was.  He will always have that disfigurement on the finger."

And his family will always wonder if they can ever trust another daycare.

The state says for now they've got T.O.P. Kids under a microscope... downgrading them to a provisional license with monthly inspections. 

Licensing officials are waiting for Metro to wrap up its investigation before deciding whether to take any additional disciplinary action.

If the District Attorney doesn't choose to pursue criminal neglect charges against an individual at the daycare, the Attorney General has the option of going after the facility itself.
 

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