Day care ruling upheld

Judge backs move to revoke license at Millersville facility

March 15, 2001|By Laura Cadiz | Laura Cadiz,SUN STAFF

An administrative law judge has upheld a state decision to revoke the license of a Millersville day care facility accused of having unqualified staff and an unsafe environment, ruling that the center takes a "nonchalant" approach to regulations.

In a decision received yesterday by counsel, the judge ruled that the numerous violations by Cloverleaf Child Development Center, in the 8200 block of Cloverleaf Drive, threatened the health, safety and welfare of the more than 100 children under its care.

The owner, Lenora Porzillo, said she feels victimized by the Child Care Administration and will appeal the decision to Anne Arundel Circuit Court.

"I will try everything possible to keep the center open," she said. "I'm not going to walk away from this; I've worked too hard."

In the 37-page decision, Judge Georgia Brady of the Maryland Office of Administrative Hearings wrote that the center has been found violating regulations more often than it complied with them and that denials of mistreatment by the center's employees were not credible.

"The mistreatment described fit within the pattern of behavior to be expected from under-qualified employees," she wrote.

Porzillo has 30 days to file an appeal and can also apply to keep the center open during the appeals process.

In September, the state Child Care Administration revoked the center's license based on about 100 violations and 20 complaints since 1997 regarding supervision and child protection. Those include claims of staff not properly recording medications given to children; an employee striking a child on the back; staff smacking children and throwing them on their napping mats; staff laughing at a child having a tantrum; and unqualified staff members.

Porzillo appealed the state's decision, arguing during a January hearing that the center's 28 employees were sufficient to care for its 110 to 120 children.

"This judge apparently did not pay much attention to the records we gave her," she said. "We have and we still have more than enough qualified staff."

During the hearing, seven parents testified that the center should remain open, and 47 others presented written testimony supporting the center. But Brady wrote that she doubted those parents had heard the full story of the citations and complaints.

"Ms. Porzillo's view as to what should be considered serious problems are not consistent with the goals of protecting children," she wrote.

Barbara Rice, director of program standards for the Child Care Administration, said she is gratified that the judge supported the administration's action.

"This is a part of the job we do in trying to ensure safe and appropriate child care for children," she said.

But Porzillo said the judge and state are not acting in the best interest of the children because the current parents are happy with the center and depend on it for care.

"We have almost 30 infants in this day care center," she said. "Where are these parents going to go to find infant care, which is so obviously hard to find?"

Rice said Porzillo is eligible to apply to open another day care center, but her history in the business would be examined in an evaluation of an application.

Porzillo said that if she loses the appeal, she would not apply for another license because she doesn't think the state would grant her one. Instead, she said, she would "do something creative" to keep the center open.

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