Day care license revoked in abandoned tot case
The state has revoked the license of a Bay Shore day care center whose staff is accused of leaving a 2-year-old girl behind at a South Shore park this week.
The Office of Children and Family Services took the emergency action against Our Little Darlings Early Educational Center after determining that "the health, safety and welfare of children in care were in imminent danger," agency spokeswoman Pat Cantiello said.
The owner and managers of the day care have declined to comment.
In an interview Thursday, Christina Karimi said she learned of her daughter's disappearance when police called shortly after 6 p.m. Tuesday.
When the phone rang, Karimi, 37, of Bay Shore, was home from work, waiting for Alexia Zambrotta to be dropped off by the day care.
"They told me she's found and she's safe. I said, 'What do you mean? She's missing?' " she said. "Everything hit me all at once."
State Park Police told the single mother that her daughter had been left behind following a day care outing to Heckscher State Park in East Islip.
Karimi said Alexia wandered several blocks to the beach, where another parent found her and alerted police.
The girl, who was unharmed, wound up spending several hours being cared for by a pair of officers, before the tearful Karimi arrived.
"How she managed to get from the park to the beach, I don't know," Karimi said.
"My daughter could have walked into the water" or been found by "someone else . . . who's not looking to help."
Karimi said the outing at the park began at about 1 p.m. Police said they first became aware of the stranded child at about 3:30 p.m.
Nearly three hours later, police said someone from the day care called to ask whether anyone had found a little girl.
Karimi, a clerk for the Suffolk County Child Care Bureau, said she had been sending Alexia to Our Little Darlings for more than 18 months without any previous problems. The facility, she said, combines academic learning with recreational outings such as pool trips and gymnastics sessions.
"It's amazing what she has learned," Karimi said of her daughter.
The day care staff member who supervised Tuesday's outing apologized later that night, Karimi said, but she's still angry at the center's "incompetence."
Karimi, who has five other children, recounted Tuesday's ordeal Thursday night in her lawyer's Bay Shore office as Alexia played with SpongeBob dolls and a coloring book.
The mother has met with investigators from the State Park Police and Children and Family Services, her attorney, Jacqueline Siben, said.
Police said Thursday that the criminal investigation was continuing. No charges have been filed, although that remains a possibility.
Children and Family Services said specific violations would be made public in a few days, after the agency completes its investigation.
The center also had its license suspended. The suspension, effective immediately, bars the facility from providing any licensed child care during the appeals process. The owner has 10 days to request an administrative hearing to contest the suspension; 30 days to challenge the revocation, Cantiello said.
The state cited Our Little Darlings on Jan. 26 for improperly supervising children. The agency found the center violated a state regulation requiring "direct visual contact with the children at all times," records show.
The day care had been operating for about five years without serious enforcement actions, records show.