State closes Chapel Hill daycare after child left in van

Toddler left in van
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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WNCN) – A Chapel Hill daycare was ordered to close on Thursday after a toddler was left in a preschool day van for hours on Tuesday during extreme heat.

Operation New Life Child Development Center in Chapel Hill was ordered to close by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services in a June 18 letter.

According to the order, the staff left a 2-year-old girl in the bus from about 9 a.m. until 3:30 p.m., when they realized the child had been left unattended in a passenger restraint device.

“About 5 p.m.., Michael Cureton, facility owner, called the child’s mother and informed the mother that the child was not transported home on the bus, as normal, and that he would bring the child home.

“Once he arrived at the home about 15 minutes later, Mr. Cureton advised the mother that the child was left in the vehicle but did not inform the mother to the full extent of the incident. In addition, Mr. Cureton attempted to dissuade the mother from reporting the incident to investigating authorities.”

The letter said the staff failed to follow an emergency plan, failed to contact emergency personnel and did not advise the mother of the full extent of the matter.

DHHS concluded that “conditions at the facility represent imminent danger to children.”

The facility told WNCN earlier that a daycare worker has been fired after a Chapel Hill mom told police that her toddler daughter was in the van.

The mom, Kimberly Cates, told WNCN that her 2-year-old daughter was 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.

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