Fayette County

Day care forced to temporarily close after child was left in van more than 9 hours

Lexington police are investigating an incident in which a 3-year-old boy was left in a Precious Jewels van on Augusta Drive for more than nine hours.
Lexington police are investigating an incident in which a 3-year-old boy was left in a Precious Jewels van on Augusta Drive for more than nine hours. gkocher1@herald-leader.com

Precious Jewels School of Excellence day care was ordered to close Friday after a 3-year-old child was left in a van for more than nine hours Wednesday night.

The center’s state license was suspended by the Cabinet for Health and Family Services Office of the Inspector General. It cited the child who was left in the van, as well as several past violations.

The emergency suspension was a result of “ failure to protect the health, safety and welfare of children in your care,” according to a notice issued by the division of regulated child care.

An investigation began Thursday after it was reported that the child had been left in the facility’s van, according to the letter addressed to Evelyn Johnson, the center’s registered agent. The investigation is ongoing, but the division determined the child was left in the van from about 4:30 p.m. Wednesday until about 2 a.m. Thursday.

Day care owners or managers could not be reached for comment. The suspension will remain in effect until the investigation is completed.

Lexington police said Thursday that the child was checked out by paramedics when he was found in the van. The child showed signs of dehydration when taken to the doctor the next day, police spokeswoman Brenna Angel said.

Previous violations of state rules had been found during prior inspections of the day care, according to the letter.

On March 20, 2014, an inspection found the day care failed to do a required driver history check on an employee who had been transporting children since Oct. 16, 2013, according to records.

On the same day, inspectors saw children riding in the center’s van without seat belts; one child climbed over a seat while the van was moving, according to records. Inspectors found that the vehicle had not been inspected in accordance with regulations and that the driver failed to ensure headlamps were on while transporting children.

The center also had failed to write down the first and last name of every child, along with the times the children got on and off a van, according to records.

An inspection on Jan. 21, 2016, showed the facility again failed to obtain driver history of an employee, and three facility van drivers were not current on their required CPR and first-aid training, according to the letter.

In March 2016, an inspection found that one of the day care’s van drivers was not listed on a central registry, according to the letter.

Precious Jewels School of Excellence will have the option to appeal the suspension, according to the letter. If the day care does not request a hearing within five days, its appeal will be barred.

Police initially said the 16-year-old sister of the 3-year-old who was left in the van could not reach her mother when the boy was not brought home Wednesday. Detectives talked to the family Friday and found out the boy’s mother, who can generally not receive calls at work, had gotten her daughter’s messages during a break.

The family is from Africa, they are not yet familiar with the culture in the United States, and they can speak very little English, police spokeswoman Brenna Angel said. When the mother found out her son was not home, the mother called a family friend who told her the boy was likely with police and not to worry. The family friend is also new to the United States.

When the woman got off work at 11 p.m., she called police to ask where her son was, according to police. After working through the language barrier, police were able to locate the child at 2 a.m.

The investigation is open, but police are not considering charges against the family, Angel said.