INGLEWOOD — With strong support from a group of parents, a day-care center is fighting charges by state officials who say it has been overcrowded and repeatedly violated health codes.
Attorneys for the state Department of Social Services have filed a 14-page complaint against the Joan Crawford Day Care Center and its owners, Joan and Anthony Crawford, after receiving complaints from parents, said Duane Phillips, the social services staff attorney who wrote the complaint. He would not say how many complaints were made or the number of parents involved.
The complaint, filed last month, is a preliminary step toward revoking the owners' license to operate a child-care center, he said. If found guilty, the Crawfords also could be fined $25 to $50 for each violation.
The complaint alleges that the owners kept poison and other hazardous materials in areas accessible to children, left trash and debris with protruding nails in the adjacent playground and failed to keep medical records on children and employees. The complaint also says the center failed to report that a 3-month-old boy stopped breathing there and died at a hospital shortly afterward in April, 1985, or that the center had an outbreak of chicken pox in April, 1984.
In response to the state's charges, the Crawfords asked for a hearing and are waiting for one to be scheduled before an administrative law judge. If the judge upholds the state's charges, officials can revoke Crawford's license. Crawford can take her case to a court of appeal if she is unhappy with the hearing's outcome.
"I'm not going to let them take this center away from me," said Joan Crawford, who says the Department of Social Services has targeted her facility for harassment.
"I may have slipped up a couple times but that doesn't mean we aren't operating a first-class day-care center. Just ask the parents," she said.
Although it was parents who originally filed complaints against the Crawford day-care center, another group of parents has stepped forward to support the facility, citing a lack of day-care centers in the area.
"I searched all over the place looking for a place to care for my little boy and I never found one as nice as the Joan Crawford Day Care Center," said Vincene Jones, whose son has attended the center for three years.
Charges Called Distorted
"I think all these charges are distorted. They have taken a bunch of single incidents over the past seven years and piled them all up to try and close this woman's business down. They don't say anything about how happy the children and the parents are," Jones said.
Jones said she is one of about 30 parents who have banded together in support of Crawford.
The facility at 726 Centinela Ave., which opened in 1979, is licensed to care for 32 children ages 2 through 7, but on numerous occasions, state inspectors said in the complaint, they have found infants at the facility.
Crawford, who acknowledged that she took care of infants, said her concern for the children's welfare was greater than her fear of losing her license. "What am I supposed to do, turn these babies out on the street?"
Advised Not to Comment
Crawford, at her attorney's urging, declined to comment further on the state's allegations. Members of the parents support group said they were advised by the attorney to decline comment, though some parents interviewed said they knew nothing about the chicken pox outbreak listed in the complaint.
"I don't know what constitutes an outbreak for the state, but if children were coming down with chicken pox at that school I'm sure I would know about it," Jones said.
In spite of advice to keep quiet, a group of parents who attended a support meeting at the facility Tuesday night said they plan to keep their children at the school despite the charges.
Crawford, who is no relation to the actress of the same name, said the facility attracted much attention even before the charges were filed.
"I think this whole thing started because of my crazy name and that movie about the actress who used to beat her children and stuff. People drive by here and take pictures; they think it is a joke," she said.
Crawford said she has considered taking her name off the building because of the complaint.