When mom Stephanie Martinez walked up to Plantation KinderCare Learning Center in Plantation, Florida, to pick up her daughter on Feb. 15, something was wrong.
Martinez was running about 15 minutes late and the day care closes at 6 p.m., but as police later pointed out, “they stay open for parents who regularly pick up their children late,” according to WPLG-TV.
The mom hadn’t received a call or notification, but when she arrived at the day care, the lights had been turned off and the place was locked up.
First, Martinez called Samantha Scaramellino, a close friend, to see if maybe she’d picked up her daughter or gotten a call. But she hadn’t.
According to a post by Scaramellino on Facebook, Scaramellino quickly advised Martinez to check the building and make some noise.
“I started knocking,” Martinez told WPLG. “I banged on every window. I couldn’t see anything, everything was dark. And then finally, I heard her and she [appeared in] the little window, on the little door, and I lost it.”
There, inside the darkened building, standing on a chair so she could peek through the glass panel on the door, was her daughter, 2-year-old Anastasia Brathwaite.
Martinez was understandably distraught and called 911 immediately. Even the operator sounded surprised when Martinez described the situation. Soon, help was on the way.
Plantation Fire and Rescue arrived and were able to pry the door open and reunite mother and daughter. Now, Martinez is planning to file a lawsuit against the company.
How did this even happen in the first place?
Police say assistant director Nichole Burrillo and a teacher, Lucilena Viggiano, locked the doors that evening and left the school at 6:20, according to an incident report.
Burrillo said Viggiano was in charge of checking roll and making sure all the kids were picked up. Then she said they both checked the building, locked up and left.
Eight minutes later, Martinez arrived and called 911. By 6:51 the fire department had arrived and freed the poor toddler.
Only eight minutes had passed, but as any parent knows, eight minutes is plenty of time for disaster to strike — not to mention the issue of not accounting for the girl in the first place.
“She’s super traumatized,” Martinez told WTVJ-TV. “It’s, it’s not fair.”
Martinez’s attorney has released a statement following the incident.
“We are outraged that KinderCare endangered the life of a child by not observing any safety protocols that led to a two-year-old being abandoned and locked inside a darkened facility,” the statement read. “Making the whole situation worse was that Ms. Martinez was forced in horror to witness her child in peril and it was not until law enforcement and the fire department were called that the toddler was then extricated through extreme measures.
“The entire event could’ve been avoided if KinderCare did not abandon their responsibilities and the toddler. What adds insult to injury is that nobody at KinderCare bothered to answer the phone in this emergency situation, they failed to apologize for their bad behavior and they failed to provide anything but a bad excuse for what happened. We will be filing a lawsuit to provide justice through the court system and to ensure that nothing like this happens to another child.”
Despite the harrowing ordeal, other parents whose children attend the day care haven’t been put off by the oversight and view it as a one-off.
“As a parent, I would be just as furious, but like I said that’s not who they are,” one parent claimed.
“They do a good job,” another said. “They have raised the whole neighborhood.”
“We take all concerns about children’s safety seriously and follow a specific protocol anytime an issue is raised,” the day care released in their own statement. “Part of that protocol includes notifying our agency partners, like state licensing and Child Protective Services, as we did in this case.
“We also placed the staff members involved on administrative leave while we, and our agency partners, look into the concern further.”
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.