The Manhattan day care where a 4-month-old boy died Monday, his first day at the facility, has never been licensed or registered by the state, NBC 4 New York has learned.
The New York State Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS), which contracts with the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to inspect licensed family-based and school-age child care programs, issued a cease and desist letter to SoHo Child Care Tuesday following the death of Karl Towndrow hours after his mother dropped him off for his first day at the facility.
The city's health department first got a complaint of an illegal child care operation there in November 2014, but when investigators went to the site, they couldn't find any proof of the business, an official said. They spoke with staff of a business on the ground floor, who denied seeing any child care activity, and they looked at the entrance, which appeared to be going to a private apartment with no visible signs of business. No one answered the bell there, and investigators determined the complaint was unsubstantiated.
OCFS said it had no history of complaints there.
The day care worker caring for Towndrow told police that shortly before he died, she fed him bottled breast milk and tried unsuccessfully to burp him to sleep, the sources said. The child was fussy and refused to go to sleep, she said, according to the sources, but he didn't appear to be in distress.
The worker told authorities she put the child into a bassinet and went to take care of the other 13 children at the center, the sources said. After about 10 minutes, the woman noticed the child had stopped making noises, the sources said.
The woman went to check on the child after about another 15 minutes and found his lips were blue and he was unresponsive, the sources said. She then tried to perform CPR and called 911. Emergency responders also tried unsuccessfully to resuscitate the child, witness John Hadzi said.
After an autopsy Tuesday, the medical examiner's office said, "The cause and manner of death are pending further studies following today's examination."
In a statement, Towndrow's parents, who live in Brooklyn Heights, wrote, "Karl's parents appreciate the kind words and condolences they have received. He was full of love and was treasured by all that met him. At this time, his parents ask for privacy as they grieve his short, wonderful life."
"We are saddened and concerned about this infant death, and are working closely with law enforcement and ACS on an investigation," the health department said in a statement.
The day care owner didn't respond to reporters as she was led out of the facility Monday by police. She is not under arrest.
Home-based programs are licensed by the state and regulated under contract by DOHMH. Under regulations, group home day cares are allowed to care for a maximum of 12 children at a time, two fewer than the number authorities say were in the SoHo home.
The health department said it makes annual unannounced visits to inspect licensed child care facilities and investigates any complaints. OCFS urges all parents to check that their day care programs are licensed and operated within state regulations. A registry of licensed day care providers is available here.