LI day care centers cited for state violations

Exterior of M.A.T.S.S. Kids Gym, one of many Exterior of M.A.T.S.S. Kids Gym, one of many day care centers on Long Island cited for health and safety violations in a new state report. (May 30, 2013) Photo Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

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Day care centers on Long Island had the most state health and safety violations of any region outside of New York City, with each averaging 4.5 infractions in the past 24 months, a state report said Thursday.

The 406 providers had a total of 1,825 violations. Onondaga County's 76 centers ranked second, at 1,112. Westchester was third. Its 210 providers had 1,062 infractions.

The report -- done by the Independent Democratic Conference that coleads the state Senate -- examined violations issued by the state Office of Children and Family Services to 1,594 providers.

The report -- which did not detail individual violations available on the state's website -- faulted the agency for taking enforcement actions against only a "small number" of centers with multiple violations.

"Our analysis also shows that various day care centers are repeatedly violating some of these very serious regulations, remain in business and have faced no enforcement action," said the report. It recommended more transparency and increasing the child care tax credit by 50 percent so parents would not have to choose less costly centers.

Jennifer Givner, an agency spokeswoman, said the report was "alarmingly misleading" for parents. "We have a rigorous inspection and enforcement process to hold providers accountable for compliance," she said.

About 400 inspectors statewide conduct announced and unannounced inspections as well as complaint investigations for allegations of regulatory violations, outside of New York City, a state official said.

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The report identified one Long Island center with repeated child abuse violations: Hempstead-based E.O.C. Inc.

It was cited for "abuse or maltreatment of a child" on July 16, 2012, and for "isolating a child in a closet" or an unsupervised area on Oct. 24, 2011.

Yet the report said no enforcement was taken against the Hempstead center since 2003.

The agency's website said E.O.C. had 17 violations -- all corrected -- in the past 24 months. A state official said enforcement actions are not displayed on the state database and the 2003 date is incorrect.

E.O.C. officials were not immediately available.

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Three Long Island day care centers had more than 50 violations each, putting them third, fourth and fifth on the list of top violators, said the report.

They are M.A.T.S.S. LTD of Syosset, Club Play LLC in Melville, and the Imagine Learning Center in East Moriches.

Infractions ranged from failing to do staff background checks and directly supervise children to partially blocked exits and unlabeled drugs.

Managers of M.A.T.S.S. and the Imagine Learning Center said violations were minor and unrelated to child care. The agency's website said they had been corrected.

Nancy Clinton, an M.A.T.S.S. manager, said: "These violations are all about the building code . . . they catch every tiny little thing." She said an unlocked file cabinet led to a citation.

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Jan Barbieri, executive director of the ChildCare Council of Nassau Inc., said the closing process can be lengthy. "They can't just walk in and shut a program down," she said.

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