Mom says 2-year-old girl left in daycare van for hours in Chapel Hill


CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WNCN) – A daycare worker has been fired after a Chapel Hill mom told police that her toddler daughter was left in a preschool daycare van for several hours during a record-breaking hot day Tuesday.

The incident was reported at 6:42 p.m. in the parking lot of the daycare at 825 N. Estes Drive in Chapel Hill, according to a police report.

The van belongs to the preschool called Operation New Life Child Development Center in Chapel Hill.

The mom, Kimberly Cates, told WNCN that her 2-year-old daughter was in the van from around 8:45 a.m. to 3 p.m. when the temperature was nearly 100 degrees on Tuesday.

The young girl is in good condition but was dehydrated after the incident, Cates told WNCN.  The girl also has bruises from struggling to free herself from the van seat.

“It breaks my heart because I didn’t know and I couldn’t do anything. My baby was suffering and I couldn’t do anything because I didn’t know,” Cates said.

After Cates discovered the incident, she said the daycare workers tried to convince her not to report the incident.

Cates told WNCN that she was offered discounted daycare and a possible job at the business by the daycare director.

“He said, after you get done with the doctor’s office, please call us. Don’t call anybody else. We’ll get through this together,” Cates said.  “Because I feel like they were trying to cover themselves.”

Cates now questions about how the entire incident was handled.

“Why didn’t you call 911 afterwards?  Why didn’t you call the authorities? Why didn’t you call me? They waited from 3:30 when they found her til 5:00 to call me. That’s not all right,” Cates said.

The day care, contacted by WNCN on Wednesday afternoon,  released a statement through its attorney.

“The individual responsible for this incident failed to perform her duties and avoided several safety checks built into company policies to ensure the safety of the children,” part of the statement said.

Chapel Hill Police said they are still investigating the incident.

Here is the full text of the Operation New Life Child Development Center statement from the law office of Matthew Charles Suczynski:

“Yesterday afternoon, June 16th, 2015, there was an incident involving one of the children in our care. When the administration and staff at Operation New Life became aware of the situation we took immediate action to tend to the child in need as well as alerting the parents of the child.

“Be assured the safety and care of the children entrusted to us is our highest priority. The individual responsible for this incident failed to perform her duties and avoided several safety checks built into company policies to ensure the safety of the children.

“The administration has addressed the break down in policy by implementing a new reformed policy that will require more than one person to be responsible for a specific duty and strengthen the safeguards involved to ensure that nothing like this ever happens again. The individual was terminated immediately upon learning what had happened. Also the ownership, staff and administration of Operation New Life is cooperating fully with State and local authorities as they investigate this matter.”

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