Some Victoria child care centers rack up dozens of regulatory violations | News


Bradley Naranjo is a 5-year-old kindergartner at Rowland Elementary School, and in many ways he’s like any other young student.

He likes playing with his mother’s camera and running around his apartment complex’s playground with other kids, but his life changed dramatically at a similar playground on Feb. 10, 2020, when he fell off the top of a slide at his day care.

Bradley landed on his head and twisted his neck after he fell off a slide at A+ Kidz Care Learning Center 2 at 9:17 a.m., according to the center’s communication report form.

His mother, Briannah Solis, said the day care center did not contact EMS, and did not contact her about the accident until around 1 p.m., hours after it happened, even though he apparently wasn’t answering to his name and was “in a trance.

Under the “action taken” section of the communication report, the only actions described are “tlc and notified office.” TLC stands for “tender love and care,” according to Solis. Until her son’s accident, she worked at another A+ Kidz Care location, where she said she had seen other instances of the center’s management not contacting parents after incidents.

Later that day, Bradley had a seizure for the first time, and he was eventually diagnosed with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, a severe form of epilepsy. He now has mobility issues and is mostly nonverbal.

Bradley Naranjo and day cares

Bradley Naranjo, 5, left, and his mother Briannah Solis, right, sit for a posed picture on Wednesday night outside of their apartment.

“Don’t get me wrong, accidents happen. I get that,” Solis said. “But it’s the fact that they waited to tell me until the end of the day.”

Deborah Schoener, director of A+ Kidz Care, said staff did not call 911 because there was no indication Bradley was hurt after the fall and she did not remember him being lethargic. Schoener also said he fell onto a squishy rubber surface.

“He went through the bars that were supposed to be blocking, like on his stomach, and he kind of tilted himself right over and the teachers were right there and they assessed him,” she said.

A+ Kidz Care was cited following the incident, and it is just one of many child care centers in Victoria that have run afoul of state regulations.

Multiple licensed centers in Victoria have amassed dozens of “deficiencies,” the formal term for regulatory violations, over the past five years, according to data from the state Health and Human Services Commission.

Bradley’s doctors hesitated to connect the fall and the epilepsy, because it took months to get him to a neurologist, according to Solis, but he had internal swelling in his neck at the emergency room in February.

Solis said Bradley had a speech delay and was mostly nonverbal before the fall, but had not had any issues with seizures.

She contacted Child Protective Services two days after the fall, she said, who then contacted the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, which licenses and regulates Texas child care centers.

On Feb. 12, 2020, the commission cited A+ Kidz Care Learning Center 2 for violating a rule about reporting injuries that require medical attention. Solis said she would have liked to see the center closed.

“I would hate for this to happen to any other child,” she said.

Schoener said Solis was trying to blame the day care for already existing issues.

“She’s an upset mom,” Schoener said. “She’s putting blame on something that is not the cause of her concerns.”

Bradley Naranjo and day cares

Jaxon Galvan, right, tries to interest Bradley Naranjo in a game of tag on Wednesday evening.

Of the 31 licensed centers in Victoria County, 18 have at least a dozen deficiencies over the last five years, according to the commission.

Some deficiencies are given based on observations from the commission’s unannounced inspections, while others come from reports from parents or the child care centers themselves.

Many of those deficiencies are classified as “high” risk by the commission, which weighs deficiencies “based on the risk a violation of the minimum standard presents to children,” according to a commission statement.

For example, the Lady Bug Learning Center in Victoria, which declined the Victoria Advocate’s interview request, has 144 deficiencies over the past five years, including 23 classified as “high” risk — the most in the county.

In a series of deficiencies dated to May 5, 2021, the commission found the center violated rules about giving first aid, contacting EMS, contacting parents, supervising children and ensuring children are not “abused, neglected, or exploited” after a child received a “significant injury.”

“A caregiver was neglectful when the caregiver failed to intervene when a child was playing by a cabinet with the hook. The child then hung on the hook with his teeth and eventually lost grip. This led to the child receiving a significant injury to the face,” the commission’s deficiency narrative says. “If the hook would have gone through the child’s palate inside the mouth, eye, or inside a nostril, it could have potentially caused more physical damage to where more intensive medical attention would have to be warranted.”

Those violations were corrected by July 2021, according to the commission, and had no administrative penalties.

A different A+ Kidz Care Learning Center location than Bradley’s was cited with a deficiency for violating rules against prohibited “harsh, cruel and unusual” punishments.

A commission monitoring inspector “observed one staff yanking a child by their arm to sit down,” and heard staff “yelling at children more than once during the inspection” in May 2022.

That violation was corrected later in the month, according to the commission, and also had no administrative penalty.

Schoener described the state’s regulatory process as unfair, and said it does not give day cares the presumption of innocence or enough chance to defend themselves.

“At the point that single child care investigator says something happened, we are automatically guilty,” she said, “So, I think that it does not go along with our society’s justice system.”

Not all Victoria child care centers have the same history of violating state regulations.

Many of the YMCA’s after-school programs located at Victoria schools only have single-digit deficiency numbers, though those programs are newer than many more heavily cited centers in Victoria.

“We have a site director at every location, so they play the role of making sure that the after-school sites are in compliance with the minimum standards that we have to follow,” Michelle Falcon, the Barbara Bauer Briggs Family YMCA’s child care director, said.

Many of the violations that the state cites childcare centers for are “very minor,” Falcon said.

“It’s tough being in a licensed program, because you have to know your standards and you have to follow them. That way, when they come and do the inspection, you won’t have any deficiencies,” Falcon said.

Another lightly-cited Victoria child care center is Little Sunflowers Daycare, which owner and director Allison Richter started earlier this year on an initial license, which is valid for six months.

The regulatory process starts before a child care center even opens, Richter said, with an initial contact to state regulators and an application.

“Then they come and actually inspect your building before you even have children in it, and they make sure that everything is up to code,” she said. “And if it’s not, then they revisit. Thankfully, we did not have to revisit with licensing, and we were able to pass right away.”

Even with the difficulty of keeping everything in line with the 200-page minimum standard handbook and the chaos of corralling toddlers, Richter said the work is rewarding.

“I have three children of my own, and so that’s actually why I started the day care,” she said. ”After I had children of my own, I found how much I love children, and so I love that I can come here every day and nurture children.”

Bradley Naranjo and day cares

Bradley Naranjo, 5, points at the camera on Wednesday evening near his apartment. Briannah Solis, left, said her son is an avid fan of cameras.

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