PENSACOLA, Fla. — The Florida day care where a toddler died Friday in a suspected hot-car death has had four violations by the state Department of Children and Families over the last two years.
In His Arms Christian Academy is currently under Department of Children and Families investigation after a 3-year-old girl was found in distress at the facility Friday, and died soon after at a local hospital.
Escambia County (Fla.) Sheriff’s Office and the State Attorney’s Office are investigating the death. While authorities have yet to confirm the fatality was heat-related, the Department of Children and Families referred to the incident as a “hot car death” in a statement released Friday afternoon. The state agency also shut down the day care until further notice Friday.
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Authorities have not yet released the name of the victim nor any information on charges sought or filed in relation to the death.
According to the department’s online records, In His Arms Christian Academy has been cited for violations twice in 2016 and twice so far this year.
The most recent report generated July 20 — less than a month before the child’s death — describes a staff member forcibly pulling a child by the nose, leaving a bruise. The report called the discipline method “severe, humiliating or frightening to children.”
In April, the department noted in an inspection report that a staff member didn’t wash his or her hands properly after changing a diaper. In December, the center allegedly failed to provide the department with a physician’s record to medically approve the center’s driver. That same December report stated some staff background screening records were missing.
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Finally, in August 2016, the center was cited for allowing a sleeping infant who is not capable of rolling over independently to sleep positioned improperly on the baby’s back.
The records show each of the violations was addressed either on site or in follow-up documentation.
Escambia County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Maj. Andrew Hobbs said Friday that interviews and forensic collection was still continuing in the case, and he said as of Monday morning there was no update on the investigation.
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Crime scene technicians could be seen photographing the day care’s parking lot area Friday afternoon, focusing on one particular van owned by the center. That same van was then towed away from the lot, followed by a crime scene unit van.
If authorities determine the child was left in the vehicle as suspected, this would be the second death in Florida this month at a day care center in which a child was left in a vehicle. It would be the fifth fatality in Florida this year involving a child left in a hot vehicle, according to kidsandcars.org, a non-profit organization that works to prevent child deaths.
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