CLEVELAND — One of the two daycares accused of failing to report the suspected abuse of Aniya Day-Garrett will be forced to close in March 2019, according to a settlement agreement reached between Get Ready Set Grow Preschool and the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.
In addition to having to close on March 31, 2019, the owners cannot apply for a license to open a new child care provider for four years.
The other daycare implicated of failing to report abuse, Harbor Crest Childcare Academy, is also on the precipice of reaching a settlement agreement with the state, according to an ODJFS spokesman. Harbor Crest, however, has already closed its doors.
The administrative action by the state follows two complaints that were filed by officials at the Cuyahoga County Division of Children and Family Services in mid-March. After fielding the complaints, state regulators moved to revoke the licenses of both daycares.
Both Harbor Crest and Get Ready Set Grow provided daycare services to Aniya Day-Garrett, a four-year-old girl from Euclid who was allegedly beaten to death by her mother and mother’s boyfriend. Both Sierra Day and Deonte Lewis have been charged with murder and are awaiting trial.
The complaint that prompted the state investigation into Ready Set Grow was brief and somewhat vague. It said, "One day in January, the child just stopped being able to walk and the parent started to carry her in." The complaint also does not specify what Aniya's injuries were.
The owner of Get Ready Set Grow said Aniya's mother once worked at the daycare, and if they suspected she was abusing her daughter, they would have terminated her immediately in order to protect other children and the business.
In their official response to the state's findings, the owners of Get Ready Set Grow were clear. They said this did not happen at their facility and they are appealing.
Under state law, people like daycare administrators and staff are required to make a report when they reasonably suspect abuse is taking place. State law requires those reports to be made to county social service agencies each and every time the abuse is suspected.
While the complaint that prompted the state’s investigation into Get Ready Set Grow was somewhat vague, the complaint that started the state’s inquiry into Harbor Crest was not.
According to a 2017 Euclid police report, the current administrator for Harbor Crest called police to report that Aniya had injuries to her face and blood coming from her ear. When officers arrived, they were provided documents that the daycare compiled internally that showed a long history of suspected abuse.
The reports, which were called child observation forms, began in September 2015 and ended in mid-May 2017. According to the police report, the injuries to Aniya’s body included welts and bruises to her face and extremities, rug burns, scars and scratches. In one specific report, daycare staff noted Aniya had a hand print on her face.
State investigators also found CCDCFS had numerous, systemic issues that plagued its handling of Aniya’s case. The state review found county social workers failed to properly conduct follow-up investigations and failed to conduct adequate interviews and observations, in addition to failing to follow long-established procedures.
The state review found county social workers failed to properly conduct follow-up investigations and failed to conduct adequate interviews and observations, in addition to failing to follow long-established procedures.
The state review also documents the agency’s failure to follow up on its own recommendations. According to state records, CCDCFS recommended three times that Aniya’s mother receive counseling. However, at no point did anyone from CCDCFS ensure that Aniya’s mother actually sought the recommended counseling, the state review found.
In the fallout of Aniya’s death, County Executive Armond Budish appointed an independent panel of child welfare experts to review CCDCFS’ handling of Aniya’s case. The panel recommended a series of changes that the agency make. Among the changes were the hiring of a dozen more social workers, as well as nearly a dozen former or retired law enforcement officers who would help with investigations. Additionally, a DCFS advisory board would be created which would provide oversight.
“The death of Aniya Day-Garrett is a tragedy which saddens us all,” Budish said in a statement. “We have reacted very strongly to the death of Aniya Day Garrett and immediately assembled a panel of experts in child welfare to review the case thoroughly and to make recommendations for the future. We have worked with the public, county council, community partners, child welfare experts and families to improve our practice and assure the public that child safety is our number one priority.”