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Child Center, Accused of Abuses, May Be Sold Soon

January 31, 1988|ALAN C. MILLER | Times Staff Writer

That she "slapped and hit" 14 children on several occasions and abused seven children by "shaking them by the shoulders until they fell down crying, grabbing them forcefully by the arms and pulling their ears." Children's names and ages were not included in the complaint.

That five children were forced "to remove their soiled clothes and walk naked to get their clean clothes, which were sometimes in a different building."

That paper towels were stuffed in one child's mouth and that a towel was wrapped around his jaw to stop him from crying. His "hands were also tied behind his back with a towel and he was made to walk around in this manner for at least 45 minutes," the complaint alleged.

That, another time, Fernando placed toilet paper in the same child's mouth to stop his crying, tied a towel around his mouth and "forced him to stand in the corner for five to 10 minutes."

That children were permitted to play in and around a shed in the playground. "Many times the door of the shed would latch behind the children, leaving them trapped for periods of up to 45 minutes inside the shed, which contained such dangerous objects as tools, broken toys and formaldehyde." Hazardous items were stored in an unlocked medicine chest accessible to children, and gardening tools were kept in an unlocked storage cabinet, the complaint says.

That, when a child fell out of a tree house at the center, bumping his head, cutting his chin and scraping his face, Fernando "slapped him and screamed at him, then held his face underneath the faucet to wash him off" and didn't call his parents "until one to two hours after the accident."

That Fernando force-fed several children, "some of whom would vomit afterwards," then forced them to clean up the vomit. One child was forced "to pick his sandwich up off the ground and eat it after he had dropped it in the sand," according to the complaint, and children were forced "to take food out of the trash and eat it."

That at least three "children were left outside unsupervised until they stopped crying. Many times it was cold outside and the children were thrown out without a jacket."

That three girls were forced "to remove their dresses and stand in their underwear as a form of discipline" for 30 to 60 minutes.

That children often were not supervised by a director, substitute director or fully qualified teacher, as required by state regulations, and that, at other times, one teacher was supervising more children than regulations permit. The center also failed to meet the minimal square footage requirement at one point when children were crammed into a modular unit, the complaint alleges.

That only one wash basin and toilet were available to 30 children in the modular unit; that, on one occasion, the temperature in the modular unit was below 68 degrees and the heaters were off, and that appropriate cushioning material was not installed under play equipment to absorb falls.

That, for two employees, Fernando failed to submit fingerprint cards and other documentation required for a criminal check to the Social Services Department within 20 days of employment and that she failed to submit the required health reports on employees.

That Fernando refused to allow a licensing worker investigating allegations of physical abuse to interview children last February, and that a locked, 6-foot chain-link fence prevented the official from inspecting the facility.

That the Los Angeles City Fire Prevention Bureau terminated the center's fire permit March 30 because a modular unit in the back yard failed to meet minimum fire safety requirements and building code standards, and that Fernando continued to use the structure two more weeks.

The Social Services Department does not disclose the sources or basis of its information. But spokeswoman Norris said inspectors generally learn of violations through reports by the facility's neighbors, parents of the children, past or present staff members, police or local child-protective services workers.

The department conducts annual unannounced visits to day-care facilities and makes further inspections to check out complaints. Follow-up visits also are conducted to ensure that violations have been corrected. The department, which regulates thousands of licensed community care providers in California, issued 22 actions to revoke licenses during November.

The Social Services Department, which does not have the authority to file criminal charges, informed the Los Angeles Police Department last year about possible child abuse at the facility, Norris said. It could not be determined whether the LAPD investigated the state's allegations.

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