Representatives of the two daycares recently cited by the state for allegedly failing to report the suspected abuse of Aniya Day-Garrett said they are being "scapegoated" by those who are truly at fault.
This comes as new records obtained by News 5 show it was the Cuyahoga County Division of Children and Family Services who filed the complaints that prompted the state investigations.
According to the records obtained by News 5, the complaints against Harbor Crest Childcare Academy and Get Ready, Set, Grow Childcare Center was filed on March 23rd. The complaints were filed 11 days after Aniya died.
While the documents are heavily redacted, the records show the complaints were filed by someone at a public children’s services agency. In this case, that PCSA was the Cuyahoga County Division of Children and Family Services.
Both complaints were substantiated by state inspectors within days of being filed, resulting in sanctions against both daycares for reportedly failing to report suspected abuse. State law requires people working at daycares, among other places, to notify authorities when they have a "reasonable suspicion" of abuse or neglect.
The owners and administrators of both daycares have denied the state’s findings and plan on appealing.
According to the complaint filed against Get Ready, Set, Grow, "the child (Aniya) was walking and then child [sic] one day in January just stopped being able to walk and the parent started to carry her." The rest of the complaint is redacted.
The vague complaint does not contain any specifics, including what injuries were reported. It also lacks specific dates in which suspected abuse was not reported. The owner of Get Ready, Set, Grow called the complaint a "total lie."
“How can we see something that’s not there?” the owner said.
Local attorneys Scott Fromson and Randy Hart have been retained to represent Get Ready, Set Grow. Fromson said the daycare operation is well above board. He also questioned CCDCFS’ timing.
“It is disingenuous and unconscionable,” Fromson said. "Get Ready Set Grow Childcare Center has always provided quality service to Aniya and has conducted itself in strict adherence to Ohio Law. Get Ready Set Grow Childcare Center had not seen any indication of prior abuse to Aniya."
At the time that the complaint was filed, the agency was under intense scrutiny for its handling of Aniya’s case. Four days before the complaint was filed, a large but peaceful protest occurred outside CCDCFS headquarters, as a large contingent of community members called for a federal investigation into the agency’s policies and procedures.
A spokeswoman previously acknowledged that CCDCFS had closed three prior investigations into allegations that Aniya was being abused. However, neither investigation turned up enough cause to have the girl removed from the home.
On March 12th, Aniya’s lifeless body was found at her mother’s apartment. According to the medical examiner’s office, Aniya died of a stroke caused by blunt force trauma to the head. The little girl was also severely malnourished. Aniya’s mother, Sierra Day, and her mother’s boyfriend, Deonte Lewis, have both been indicted on aggravated murder and other charges. Both have pleaded not guilty and face the possibility of the death penalty.
County spokeswoman Mary Louise Madigan said CCDCFS’ special investigations unit filed the complaints. The specialized unit is assigned to cases that involve a child fatality, she said. Madigan said the agency is required to notify the state when it is believed that a mandatory reporter is not reporting suspected abuse.
“While investigating the fatality, we had concerns about both the daycare centers. We reported it to the state, which we are obligated to do,” Madigan said. “Any out-of-home abuse or neglect is investigated by the SIU, as is any fatality.”
Police records, however, show a CCDCFS caseworker assigned to Aniya’s case in 2017 should have questioned whether the girl’s daycare at the time, Harbor Crest Childcare Academy, was properly reporting the suspected abuse.
A Euclid police report from May 2017 shows the daycare provided responding officers with internal documents that detailed 14 instances in which injuries were spotted on Aniya’s body. The incidents dated back to September 2015. In many of those reports, Aniya stated that her mother caused the injuries.
The responding officer then provided all of the paperwork to the county social worker assigned to the case.
Nearly a year later, in March 2018, information from that very same police report was put into a complaint authored by CCDCFS. That complaint, which came 11 days after Aniya died, led to the state citing Harbor Crest.
So why did the social worker assigned to Aniya’s case in 2017 not notify the state that the daycare allegedly failed to report the abuse?
“That aspect remains part of the internal investigation,” Madigan said. That internal investigation, which started in the days after Aniya died, remains ongoing.
Attorneys representing Get Ready, Set, Grow believe the county agency's latest move is a clear example of 'scapegoating.'
"This Euclid Incident Report documents 14 prior incidents concerning Aniya, and it is unconscionable to us that nothing was done by Cuyahoga County to protect Aniya and keep her safe," the attorneys said in a statement. "The Cuyahoga County Division of Children and Family Services then had the audacity to file a Complaint with the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services against Get Ready Set Grow Childcare Center on March 23, 2018, 11 days after the death of Aniya. It is a shame that the County did not make the same kind of effort to protect Aniya while she was living."
The owners and administrators of Harbor Crest have been unwavering in their denials of the state’s findings. Officials said they made reports with CCDCFS in February 2017, April 2017 and May 2017. Harbor Crest plans on appealing the state’s findings.