The two Euclid-based daycares accused of failing to report the suspected abuse of Aniya Day-Garrett have requested administrative hearings as the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services intends to revoke each program’s license to operate.
In its answer to the state, the owners of Get Ready, Set, Grow Childcare Center said the allegations lack merit and evidence.
The ODJFS sent letters to Get Ready, Set, Grow and Harbor Crest Childcare Center in late April, notifying the owners of each facility that the state was seeking to revoke their respective licenses. The administrative action stems from investigations into both programs which determined the daycares allegedly failed to report suspicions that Aniya was being abused. Under state law, daycares have a right to appeal the state’s attempt to revoke their license.
“That is a serious allegation. [The owners of Get Ready, Set, Grow are] upset about it because they had absolutely no knowledge of any incident of abuse,” said attorney Scott Fromson.
Fromson said he and co-counsel Randy Hart both have their work cut out for them. They will have to prove what their clients, Iran Doss and Althea Cavor, didn’t know and didn’t see.
“How would they be able to defend themselves here? The state is essentially saying, ‘you didn’t report this child abuse.’ The reason it wouldn’t have been reported is because they didn’t see any evidence of it,” Hart said. “The state is making an assumption that they saw it. There’s no evidence to suggest that they did see it.”
As News 5 first reported, officials from the Cuyahoga County Division of Children and Family Services made the initial complaints that prompted the state's investigation in the weeks that followed Aniya's death. At the time the complaints were made, the agency was under intense scrutiny for the way it handled Aniya's case. A county spokeswoman said the agency had three prior investigations into allegations that Aniya was being abused. However, none of those investigations turned up enough cause to remove the girl from the home, the spokeswoman said.
The complaint intake report that resulted in the state's citations against Get Ready, Set, Grow lacks detail compared to the complaint filed against Harbor Crest which cited more than a dozen documented instances in which daycare officials reportedly noticed injuries on Aniya’s body but failed to report it to the proper authorities.
The complaint intake report against Get Ready, Set, Grow said, the "child had injuries that were not reported to children services. The child was walking and then one day in January 2018 the child just stopped being able to walk and the parent started carry [sic] her in.”
The daycare’s owners said Aniya’s mother, Sierra Day, worked at the daycare for about six months. As to why the child stopped being able to walk in January 2018, the daycare’s owners said Aniya could, in fact, walk and Sierra only picked her up to avoid her daughter walking in the snow.
Because Day worked at the daycare, if the owners had suspected abuse was going on, they would have immediately fired her in order to protect the other children and the business itself, the owners said.
"Our number one priority is the children, taking care of them and meeting their needs," Fromson said. "We’re in a position where we have to defend ourselves against this spurious allegation. It’s a difficult thing to do. It’s also an expensive thing to do. We have to fight it. It’s an uphill battle.”
Fromson said the social workers assigned to Aniya’s cases should shoulder some of the blame as well.
“A social worker present from the county heard Aniya tell her that my mommy hits me, my mommy hurts me. Nothing was done,” Fromson said.
CCDCFS continues to review its handling of Aniya’s case. An independent panel is expected to compile a report on possible changes to department policy and procedures.
According to ODJFS, Harbor Crest Childcare Academy failed to notify the state when childcare workers contacted EMS to transport Aniya for medical treatment in May 2017.
The Harbor Crest owners denied allegations that the daycare didn't report the abuse.
No hearing dates have been set in either case. A state spokesman said the process can take up to a year.