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State says suspected abuse of 4-year-old Aniya went unreported by daycare despite annual inspections

Posted at 7:30 PM, Mar 27, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-28 10:13:33-04

A daycare staff's internal documentation shows suspicions that 4-year-old Aniya Day-Garrett was being abused at home, and the daycare didn't report it for years, despite annual state inspections, according to officials from the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services.

On March 11, Aniya was found inside her mother's apartment by Euclid police. She was unresponsive and had burn marks on her body. She was taken to the hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

Two days later, Aniya’s mother, Sierra Day, and her mother’s boyfriend, Deonte Lewis, were both charged with aggravated murder. According to the medical examiner’s office, Aniya died of blunt force trauma to the head. She was also emaciated, officials said.

As News 5 first reported last week, state officials are investigating whether Aniya’s former daycare, Harbor Crest Childcare Academy, in Euclid, followed the state’s mandatory child abuse reporting laws.

Daycare programs that hold state licenses are required to undergo annual inspections. As part of those inspections, license specialists examine a daycare center's policies and procedures around mandated reporting of abuse and whether all child care staff members have taken the required child abuse and neglect training, ODJFS officials said.

“Typically, failure to report suspected child abuse/neglect is reported via a complaint about a specific situation,” spokeswoman Angela Terez. “At that time, the licensing specialist will question all applicable parties, which may include center staff, administrators and parents, and collaborate with local law enforcement and the county public children services agency to make a final determination.”

According to a Euclid police report from 2017, a prior administrator at Harbor Crest Childcare Academy documented injuries on Aniya’s body a total of 14 times between September 2015 and April 2017. However, state officials told News 5 that they have no record of any of those documented injuries being reported to ODJFS. 

Additionally, a spokeswoman for the Cuyahoga County Division of Children and Family Services said the agency conducted three investigations into allegations that Aniya was being abused by her mother. However, officials could not establish enough cause in any of those cases to remove Aniya from her mother's home, the spokeswoman said.

RELATED: Cuyahoga County opens investigation into DCFS handling of Aniya Day-Garrett case

Ohio is one of 48 states that has a law requiring a wide range of professionals, including teachers and daycare administrators, to report suspected child abuse or neglect. Every time a mandatory reporter suspects abuse, it should be reported, officials said. 

It appears the staff at Harbor Crest didn’t do that.

“ODJFS was not made aware of the documented incidents until the news stories aired,” Terez said in an email. “The center documented the incidents on its own form and never presented the form to the licensing specialist during inspections. Additionally, the center did not present any ODJFS incident reports during the inspections related to the reported 14 documented injuries.”

According to state inspection reports from 2016, 2017 and 2018, Harbor Crest has been found to be non-compliant on a variety of rules. However, none of the violations were deemed to be a ‘serious risk.’

According to the 2016 report, inspectors noted that staff files for four of eight employees did not have updated statements of non-conviction, a form that employees sign to affirm they have not been convicted of offenses that would prohibit them from working in childcare. Those issues also dogged Harbor Crest in 2017 and 2018, according to the reports.

“It was determined that documentation on file indicated a possibility of a prohibited offense, and no rap sheet had been requested to verify the complete background check had been secured for the persons listed on the employee record chart,” an inspector noted in the 2017 report. “It was determined that an employee had no conviction or had pled guilty to an offense listed in the law prohibiting employment in a childcare program, and no evidence was on file to support the claim that rehabilitation standards had been met.”

Following the 2017 inspection, a new administrator took the reins at Harbor Crest. However, in 2018, state inspectors found the daycare non-compliant on more than 30 rules. The daycare has submitted corrections for those issues, which are awaiting state approval.

Harbor Crest officials previously told News 5 that they did what they were required to do under the state’s mandatory reporting law. A previous administrator claims she notified the state that she suspected Aniya was being abused in 2016. However, state officials told News 5 they have no record of a report being filed.

The current administrator of Harbor Crest declined to comment Tuesday afternoon on the state inspection. However, the administrator did say the daycare has corrected issues that were contained in previous inspections.

“[The inspection] is just protocol. It’s just procedure, that’s all. We don’t have no comment [sic],” the administrator said. “[The daycare has] always been [up to code]. It’s always been done right. It’s just standard procedure. The state, that’s their job.”

State officials say the investigation could take up to a month.