PONDERAY — The Idaho Department of Health & Welfare is suspending the license of Little Fit Day Care after an unattended infant was found unresponsive last month, Ponderay Police said on Tuesday.
The announcement comes a week after the daycare facility at the Bonner Mall abruptly announced it was permanently closing down its operations due to “unforeseen circumstances.” It was the same day, March 8, Little Fit was notified by Health & Welfare that it was immediately terminating the company’s Idaho Child Care Program provider agreement for violating its terms.
The termination followed a Panhandle Health District safety inspection on Feb. 26, two days after the child was found unresponsive. A March 6 Ponderay Police report cited by Health & Welfare indicated that the child was left “completely unattended.”
“In the absence of your care, the infant was hit, held down by the back of the neck, dragged across the carpet, head-butted, bit, and hit with wood and plastic toys by other unattended children,” Health & Welfare said in the department’s March 8 letter to Dennis McLeish, the owner of Little Fit Day Care.
The department further noted that the children’s actions toward the infant, without any adult supervision or intervention, led to the infant being seriously injured and to its beings hospitalized.
The child is reportedly recovering at home, although that report could not be immediately verified on Tuesday.
“Staff at your facility explained that after the incident they received a ‘group message’ from you ‘stating that no one is allowed to leave the children unattended,’” Health & Welfare said in the department’s letter to McLeish.
Voice and text messages left at the phone number listed in Little Fit’s closure post were not immediately returned on Tuesday.
Ponderay Police said officers were summoned to Bonner General Immediate Care on Schweitzer Plaza Drive on the afternoon of Feb. 24 after receiving the report of an unresponsive child.
Officers determined the child was under the care of Little Fit Day Care.
“This is an ongoing investigation and is currently being reviewed by the Bonner County Prosecutor’s Office,” Det. Sgt. Mike Victorino said in a Tuesday press release.
Public records pertaining to the matter remain exempt from records requests because of the ongoing investigation. Police said they will release updates as they become available.
Online Health & Welfare records show that Little Fit has been inspected four times since 2017.
It passed an initial inspection that year and failed an annual inspection in 2018. It passed a follow-up inspection in 2018 and an unannounced inspection on Jan. 15.
Little Fit failed an Oct. 16, 2018, annual inspection partially because of inadequate supervision of children, according to Health & Welfare records.
“At the time of inspection, a child inadvertently locked a child in a room and staff were unaware. Additional staff are needed for supervision,” the inspector noted in the comments.
The report further noted that there was no light in the infant room and the facility’s fire extinguisher needed to be serviced.
Those deficiencies were corrected by the time of an Oct. 30, 2018, follow-up inspection. The supervision deficiency was corrected by fitting a baby gate into the doorway to prevent doors from becoming locked, according to the inspection report.
At the time of the last inspection, 101 children were enrolled in the daycare.
News of the closure blindsided some in the community, according to the comment thread beneath Little Fit’s closure post.
Others appeared to know something had occurred at the facility and debated whether the matter deserved public attention.
“This incident should not be kept private,” posted Sammi Hernandez, who added it was important to keep in mind that an unattended child was badly injured.
“Safety is the main concern.”
Andie Black called Little Fit’s staff compassionate people who closely follow the rules.
“Please, if anything — fight back against the smear campaign of allegations and know that they cannot disclose what happened for the privacy of the children and families,” Black said in her post.
Keith Kinnaird can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @KeithDailyBee.