BRADENTON -- The Children's Academy of Southwest Florida may be forced to close Feb. 1 after a state investigation into an infant's death found a day care worker tested positive for cocaine and marijuana, and surveillance video revealed several licensing violations.
An emergency suspension order issued last week by the Department of Children and Families also made the Children Academy's license invalid for children 12 months or younger in the wake of its investigation.
"We issued a complete revocation of their license that begins on the first" of February, said Natalie Harrel, a spokeswoman for the Department of Children and Families. "However, the school has the possibility to go through an appeal process. It is up to the school to appeal or to shut down."
Officials at The Children's Academy on 26th Street West in Bradenton said they are no longer enrolling children of any age. The Children's Academy declined further comment.
According to the suspension order report by the Department of Children and Families, the 4-month-old infant arrived at Children's Academy the morning of Jan. 7 "in good health." The child was found unresponsive around 11 a.m. the same day.
The day care's infant teachers testified in the report the baby was given a bottle and
placed in a crib to sleep around 8:30 a.m. The facility director told Department of Children and Families the baby was fed and placed in the crib on her side to sleep.
But video surveillance at the facility showed otherwise, Harrel said. According to the report, the video shows a teacher at the day care placing the child in a bouncy swing and using a blanket to prop a bottle next to the baby so she could feed herself. It then shows the teacher placing the baby in the crib on her stomach without burping her. The report says the infant "can be seen on the video attempting to lift her head and kicking her legs."
"This is why it is so important to have video surveillance, so we can uncover these types of issues," Harrel said.
According to Florida statutes, misrepresenting events constitute a criminal offense and a class I licensing violation.
DCF found several licensing violations while investigating the infant's death, Harrel said.
According to Florida administrative code, children need to be fed individually based on their developmental capabilities, and infants need to be bottle-fed until they are able to sit in a high chair.
The administrative code states: "There should be no propped bottles. If a child cannot hold the bottle, then a staff person or volunteer must hold the bottle during feeding."
The administrative code also gives specific provisions for putting infants into cribs.
It reads: "When napping or sleeping, young infants who are not capable of rolling over on their own shall be placed on their back and on a firm surface to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome."
On the day of the infant's death, a teacher who initially cared for the infant tested positive for cocaine and marijuana and admitted to the recent use of marijuana.
According to DCF, the facility director was made aware of the positive drug test, but took no action until other staff members noticed the teacher at work Jan. 8.
The report also indicates staff members have picked up infants by one arm.
The Bradenton Police Department is conducting its own investigation into the infant's death.
"We are still waiting on the toxicology reports from the state lab," Tim Christensen of the Bradenton Police Department said. "We will make our evaluation after that."
The Children's Academy locations in Sarasota and on Seventh Avenue East in Bradenton are still permitted to enroll infants and remain open.
Erica Earl, eduction reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081.