Chapel Hill News

State shuts down Chapel Hill daycare after toddler left on bus

The state shut down a Chapel Hill daycare center Friday after a worker left a 2-year-old girl on a bus Tuesday, when the outside temperature reached 99 degrees.

Operation New Life Child Development Center was ordered closed by the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, according to a letter sent to owner Mike Cureton on Thursday.

On Tuesday, Karah Evans was returned to her mother, Kimberly Cates, disheveled, dehydrated and in new clothing by Cureton and an assistant about 5:15 p.m., Cates said.

“He sat down across from me and Karah and told me she was left on the daycare bus,” Cates said Thursday.

She asked how long she had been left there.

She said the answer was “most of the day.”

Cureton is the CEO of Operation New Life. He served as a board member for the Orange County Partnership for Young Children before resigning “recently,” said executive director Robin Pulver. He was also a consultant for Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Pre-K Head Start Program.

Efforts to reach Cureton for comment were unsuccessful.

Operation New Life released a statement through attorney Matthew Suczynski on Wednesday saying an “incident” had occurred and that the individual responsible had been fired.

“The administration has addressed the breakdown in policy by implementing a new reforms policy that will require more than one person to be responsible for a specific duty,” it said, “and strengthen the safeguards involved to ensure that nothing like this ever happened again.”

Rosa Gibson, identified on a police report filed by Cates, said she was the bus monitor the day Karah was found. She said the director returned that afternoon and found Karah. In an interview Friday, Gibson said she believed she was still employed by Operation New Life.

“I was holding a baby that day, and a diaper bag, and my own bag,” Gibson said, explaining why she didn’t see the girl.

Violations

The daycare, at 825 N. Estes Drive, has been found in violation during each annual inspection for the past three years, according to North Carolina records.

In 2013, one employee had not had a modified criminal record check in the past three years.

In 2014, an inspector found a gasoline can and box cutter in areas accessible to children. Two staff members had no current negative tuberculosis test. Four staff members had no current medical statement on file. Insufficient numbers of first aid-trained staff members were found, and no employee was certified to teach first aid to others. Neither van driver was CPR certified.

In June 2015, the inspector found a bottle of floor cleaner, floor stripper and three cans of paint between the inside and outside doors to the playground. The facility also failed to document regular visual checks for sleeping infants 12 months or younger.

‘Several hours’

Cates said Cureton later told her Karah had been left on the bus only “for 15-30 minutes,” changing his statement when she requested a definite time estimate to give doctors. A police report filed at 6:42 p.m. Tuesday says Karah was left on the bus unattended for “several hours.”

Cates said upon discovering her in the bus Operation New Life employees tried to give Karah ice water and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich – which she threw up.

Cates said Karah was treated Tuesday night for dehydration and still had some bruising Thursday, possibly caused by her struggle against car seat straps. She is home and in good condition now.

Chapel Hill police continue to investigate.

Albers: 919-829-8925

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