PEMBERTON — The child care center in Pemberton has been fined and placed on a provisional license for violations including giving pine cleaner to children.
In January two toddlers at the Pemberton Academic Learning Services center, known as PALS, drank Pine-Sol that staff believed was apple juice, according to newly released reports from the Department of Human Services. One child vomited but the children were not seriously harmed.
The state classified the accidental ingestion as maltreatment and fined the center $1,000. Another $200 fine was levied for not promptly reporting the incident to the state.
The state has placed PALS on a two-year conditional license following that incident and other violations of state regulations. The center must correct the violations or could face additional penalties or license revocation, the order states.
Jeff Tietje, president of the nonprofit center’s board of directors, said they don’t intend to appeal the findings.
Tietje acknowledged an “unfortunate mistake” was made but said new safety procedures have been implemented and he is confident the children at the center are safe.
“This was six months ago. We addressed it and we’ve moved on,” he said of the cleaner consumption.
According to the state investigation report:
A staff member mistook a bottle of Pine-Sol for apple juice and placed it in a refrigerator. A different staff member presumed the bottle contained juice and served it to three toddlers a few days later.
One 2-year-old drank and spit out the cleaner but staff still did not realize it was not juice. The breakfast cart was pushed into another classroom where someone finally noticed there was a bottle of Pine-Sol.
In the meantime another 2-year-old in the other room sipped cleaner from a cup and soon after vomited. More vomit was found later in the room but it was not known who vomited.
The third cup of cleaner was taken away before the child to which it was served drank from it.
Staff members and parents gave conflicting reports about what happened next.
A staff member who witnessed the incident told a state investigator they informed a supervisor and was instructed not to tell parents. Two other staff members said they also were told not to say anything.
The facility supervisor told the investigator parents were notified soon after it happened. The center also called a poison control helpline and was told the children were not in danger, the supervisor said.
But the parents of the children told the investigator they were not notified that evening. A parent of the child who threw up said they would have taken the child for a medical checkup if they had known.
Meanwhile an internal review report produced by the center says the supervisor was initially only informed that Pine-Sol was poured and was not told that children ingested it until later.
The center since has required staff to review emergency response protocols and participate in response simulations, according to the state documents.
Storage areas also have been reorganized to enhance separation of consumable and non-consumable products.
The Department of Human Services also investigated another child injured at the center in December but decided it did not rise to the level of maltreatment. A toddler burned two fingers after putting them into a bowl of oatmeal.
Additional regulatory violations also were found at the center, which is licensed for up to 55 children from infant to school age, during a site visit in late January.
Violations stemming from a visit are not uncommon and providers generally are issued correction orders.
Most of the violations at PALS involved inadequate record keeping. The state also found some staff had not completed some of the required routine in-service trainings.
The state inspector also observed a classroom was at one point left under the supervision of an aide when a teacher is required to always be in the room.
The center also was faulted for sending a misbehaving school-age child into the infant classroom. “This is not an acceptable means of behavior guidance,” the state report concluded.
Tietje said he could not comment on the other violations because has not yet seen the report. The members of the center’s governing board will review the report at their next meeting, he said, and they will develop plans to address any violations that have not already been corrected.