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Two of Cayuga County's largest child care providers face license revocation, violations

The Citizen - 10/22/2022

Oct. 21—The licenses of two of Cayuga County's largest child care providers are pending revocation by the state.

Though the two providers expect to keep their licenses, their reviews by the New York State Office of Children and Family Services come amid several recent violations it found during inspections there.

According to the office's website, the day care license of the Cayuga Community College Child Care Center at 81 Wall St. in Auburn is "pending revocation and denial" as of June 3. The day care license of the E. John Gavras Center at 182 North St. in Auburn is "pending revocation" as of April 20. Both providers have been removed from the office's referral list as well.

Asked by The Citizen for more information on what prompted the reviews, the office declined comment, citing policy not to comment on "an ongoing investigation or active enforcement matter."

Amanda Gould, director of the Cayuga Community College Child Care Center, said in a statement to The Citizen that the incident that prompted the center's review took place in April. The employee involved no longer works at the center, which has a total capacity of 123 children. Gould declined further comment on the incident.

The college's Faculty-Student Association, which oversees the center, "worked through the appropriate legal process in this matter and implemented several corrective actions," Gould added.

"The safety of the children at the Cayuga Community College Child Care Center is the primary goal and responsibility of all Child Care Center employees," she said.

"During this time, the Child Care Center has continued offering excellent child care services to the greater Auburn community, and will continue to do so," she continued. "We expect this matter to be resolved in the coming weeks, and that the license for the Child Care Center will remain in place."

On its website, the Office of Children and Family Services lists four violations it found at the Child Care Center during an April 22 inspection triggered by a complaint. Two have been corrected. The other two violations listed are corporal punishment and not properly separating children when their behavior is a dangerous or disruptive.

The office's website lists only the regulation the provider violated, not what they did to violate it, and the office again declined comment when asked that by The Citizen.

More uncorrected violations at the Child Care Center were found after inspections in May, August and September, including not immediately reporting of suspected child abuse or maltreatment to the Statewide Central Register of Child Abuse and Maltreatment; not immediately notifying parents and the office of serious incidents involving a child; not competently supervising children at all times; not taking precautions to eliminate health or safety hazards; and not reviewing the backgrounds of applicants for staff and volunteer positions.

The Child Care Center is one of the five largest child care providers in Cayuga County along with the E. John Gavras Center, which has a total capacity of 126 children.

The Gavras Center's executive director and CEO, Danielle Wright, told The Citizen its license is pending revocation due to an April incident where a 3-year-old child received a snack made at a facility that processes peanuts, to which the child is allergic. The child was "relatively fine," Wright said. They were not hospitalized and went home with their mother.

In compliance with the Office of Children and Family Services' review, the center is completing staff trainings on allergies and related topics, and has adopted a list of acceptable snacks. Wright anticipates the review being complete and the "pending revocation" status being lifted by December.

As for its violations, Wright said all those listed on the office's website have been corrected. If any are still listed as uncorrected, she continued, it's because of the turnaround time involved in the process. The provider must send documentation of corrections to the office, which then returns to the site for confirmation.

The violations at the Gavras Center include not competently supervising children, which the office has found there six times since April. Wright said the violation has happened when a staff member loses a line of sight on a child on the playground, for example. The food allergy incident was another example, as the staff person didn't notice the warning on the snack package.

The April incident also prompted a violation for not immediately notifying parents and the office of serious incidents. The parents were immediately notified, Wright said, but not the office.

The same violation was found in September after the center announced it was limiting the number of integrated preschool classrooms it operates due to the departure of a teacher certified in special education for ages 2 and younger. Again, Wright said, parents and school officials were immediately notified but not the office, prompting the violation.

Two more notification violations, and two violations for not immediately reporting suspected child abuse or maltreatment to the Statewide Central Register, stem from two incidents in October and August, Wright said. The center called Child Protective Services immediately upon learning of them, she continued. But because the center didn't learn of them until some time after the incidents happened, the violations were prompted. One incident was concluded to be unfounded, Wright added, and she has been told the other will be as well.

An additional violation on the Gavras Center's most recent inspection, Oct. 4, is not having a permanent director on site performing the duties of the position within 90 days of the departure of their predecessor. Wright said she has stepped into the child care program director position after the previous one accepted another job in June. While she's qualified to be the acting director, she explained, she doesn't have the educational degree required of the permanent position. That's what prompted the violation, she said, though the center has since hired a new child care director, correcting it.

Wright added that she doesn't believe the pending license revocation nor the violations contributed to the low enrollment that led the center to discontinue its toddler day care program this fall. She believes the main contributor is the Office of Children and Family Services raising day care pay rates by 33% in June.

"Definitely anyone can be aware of it," she said of the license status. "It's posted in our facility so parents can see it at any time in the entrances and exits. It's not something we've been hiding."

There may be a reason for the recent increase in the office's license reviews and day care violations, said Lori Schakow, executive director of Child Care Solutions in Auburn.

Office staff have not been able to inspect providers during much of the COVID-19 pandemic, Schakow told The Citizen. Before that, she believes regular inspections helped providers maintain compliance.

Schakow declined to comment specifically on the pending license revocations and violations at the Cayuga Community College Child Care Center and the E. John Gavras Center. But she said Child Care Solutions is available to help any Cayuga County providers maintain high quality and ensure the children in their care are safe.

The loss of either of two of the county's largest providers, or both, would "make a huge difference" on local parents, Schakow added.

"A lot of parents would be out of care," she said. "And I don't think there's anyone immediately in the pipeline ready to fill in and take their place."

Lake Life Editor David Wilcox can be reached at (315) 282-2245 or Follow him on Twitter @drwilcox.


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