Staten Island Day Care Where 3-Year-Old Drowned Shut Down by State

By Nicholas Rizzi on August 18, 2014 3:16pm 

 Mother Byrd Daycare, where 3-year-old Edward Harris drowned last month in a backyard pool, was shut down by the state for failing to properly block access to the pool.
Mother Byrd Daycare, where 3-year-old Edward Harris drowned last month in a backyard pool, was shut down by the state for failing to properly block access to the pool.
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DNAinfo/Nicholas Rizzi

MARINERS HARBOR — The day care center where a 3-year-old boy drowned last month has had its license suspended by state inspectors for failing to protect children from the facility's pool.

Mother Byrd Daycare, at 51 Maple Parkway in Mariners Harbor, was shut down after a July 25 inspection. It was found to have numerous violations, including not having a suitable barrier around its backyard pool, according to the state's Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS).

The inspection came a day after 3-year-old Edward Harris, whose mother worked at the center, drowned in the above-ground pool. After his death, Harris' grandmother, Elizabeth Johnson-Battipaglia, said the center was understaffed and did not properly protect the children from the pool.

"The pool is not supposed to be there, it's a day care," Johnson-Battipaglia told DNAinfo New York. "How can you allow that there? Their negligence killed my grandson."

Home-based child care providers are not barred from having a pool and some can use them during day care hours with the proper permits. But they must have a fence at least 48 inches high surrounding it, according to the OCFS.

Mother Byrd Daycare had not been given permission to use the pool and Johnson-Battipaglia said it only had a small fence around it that was easily scalable by the 3-year-old. 

The facility was issued a violation by OCFS for failure to have a suitable barrier at the pool.

Other violations included failure to file daily attendance of children, not keeping a list of employees responsible for taking care of them, not having a recorded schedule for workers, not having health records for the kids and having no written sleeping and napping arrangements between parents and the program.

The owner of Mother Byrd, Sherrie Byrd, did not want to comment for this story but a state official said she was challenging OCFS' claims and has a hearing set for Aug. 25.

On July 24, Edward was found inside the pool in the backyard of the center and rushed to Richmond University Medical Center in cardiac arrest. He was pronounced dead on arrival, police said.

His grandmother said there were not enough workers to watch the 12 children in the center, and his mother, Maria Johnson, 23, was too busy watching other kids to catch her son climbing into the pool.

"It's not the mother's fault," Johnson-Battipaglia said. "She's the only employee. She was taking care of other children."

The facility was last inspected by OCFS in December 2013 before Edward's death and did not receive any violations that time, a spokeswoman for the agency previously said.

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