MSDH: Daycare where child nearly drowned did not have enough staff, pool not secure

Published: Mar. 1, 2023 at 12:32 PM CST
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HINDS COUNTY, Miss. (WLBT) - A report from the Mississippi State Department of Health sheds more light on conditions at a Hinds County daycare where a one-year-old boy nearly drowned last fall.

In October, a toddler accidentally fell into a swimming pool at the Little Blessings from Heaven Childcare Center and Christian Academy. The boy was later found unconscious and rushed to the hospital. He is said to be on life support today.

In response to the incident, MSDH temporarily closed the facility and launched an investigation into it.

Health officials determined through the inquiry Little Blessings failed to comply with numerous childcare licensure regulations and was fined $2,675.

Little Blessings was required to pay the amount within 30 days or file an appeal within 10.

Attorney Warren Martin, who represents the daycare, said Little Blessings entered a consent agreement with MSDH and the initial fine was capped at $500 and paid.

He added that all violations discovered by investigators we’re corrected and the daycare was allowed to reopen on February 1 “under a limited emergency status.”

Meanwhile, a grand jury is expected to look into the case, after Byram Police opened an investigation into the matter. “Our detectives took the whole case to the last grand jury. Grand jury put it to the side for further review and [it] will be presented at next grand jury,” Chief David Errington said.

A copy of the January 25 report was posted Wednesday on the Real Talk Byram social media page.

According to the 14-page document, investigators found Little Blessings lacked appropriate staffing levels to adequately watch children, left the pool area unsecured and discovered cleaning materials left near children’s play equipment.

During a visit on October 21, the children’s sign-in sheet showed both toddler classes there had a combined 31 students, but only two caregivers watching them. The amount represented 13 more students than allowed under state regulations.

The daycare space itself also was over capacity, with 31 one and two-year-olds occupying an area approved for 13 children, investigators found.

The director of the daycare was expected to “meet with staff on maintaining the room capacity throughout the facility” and “upon completion of this training... provide [the] MSDH investigator with [the] agenda, meeting minutes and roster.”

As for the hazardous materials, “[The owner] met with the caregivers on January 4, 2023, and discussed buildings and grounds upkeep and removal of hazardous material. The owner also stated that they replaced the fencing, and the pool area is being filled with dirt.”

The pool was slated to be completely filled in by January 17. Work was still ongoing during WLBT’s visit.

Deficiencies discovered by MSDHRuleTotal number of violations reported
Rule 1.8.1 (1)Staff-to-child ratio shall be maintained at all times.13
Rule 1.8.1 (2)Children shall not be left unattended at any time; Video monitors cannot be used as substitute for physical presence19
Rule 1.9.6 (5)Television viewing is limited to one hour a day, must be educational, and a scheduled part of daily activities.1
Rule 1.11.2 (1)Facility’s maximum capacity shall be based on minimum of 35 square feet of usable indoor space per child.18
Rule 1.11.9 (5)Outdoor area shall be free of hazards and not less than 30 feet from electrical transformers, power lines, substations, etc.1
Rule 1.11.11 (2)In-ground pools are prohibited unless protected by six-foot fence and locked gate.1
Rule 1.14.1 (1)Corporal punishment, including hitting, spanking, beating, shaking, etc., is prohibited.1

Little Blessings still faces more legal issues ahead.

A civil suit against the Davis Road daycare and others was filed in Hinds County Circuit Court on November 21 by the mother and a friend of L.M., the child.

According to the suit, L.M. was in the care of the daycare that afternoon when he and other children were left outside unsupervised.

“With no adult supervision, minor L.M. was able to access the swimming pool area through the fence, which did not have a secured barrier,” the complaint states. “L.M. fell into the pool and was unable to crawl back out. L.M. was missing for approximately 10 minutes before the employees at Little Blessings found him.”

The door to the daycare was locked at the time, meaning children could not get back inside, court documents state.

When L.M. was found, workers at the daycare called 911 and performed CPR until paramedics arrived.

“L.M. has suffered damages including but not limited to past and future medical bills, past pain, suffering and mental anguish, accrued medical expenses, travel expenses and other damages to be proven at trial,” the suit states. “Plaintiff can reasonably anticipate future damages, proximately caused by said negligence of defendants, including future medical expenses, future pain... permanent physical impairment, permanent disfigurement and scarring.”

Investigators also reviewed video footage from October 21, where they noticed a caregiver pushing a child by the head, popping a child on the forehead and popping another child on the hand, all while other children were left “unattended... fighting and kicking each other in the face while on the rug in the classroom.”

Since then, the daycare’s owner completed childcare regulations training with MSDH and met with her caregivers, where she “discussed appropriate discipline techniques and positive redirection for children,” the report stated.

The Byram Police Department says it has turned its case over to the Hinds County District Attorney’s office and it will be presented at the next grand jury.

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