Douglas child care center shut down after infant death

Coffee County Sheriff’s Office, DFACS also investigating
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Published: May. 17, 2021 at 6:50 PM EDT
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DOUGLAS, Ga. (WALB) - A Douglas child care center has been ordered to close immediately following an investigation into the death of a 9-month-old infant in its care, according to the Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning.

Akim Academy, 4065 Highway 441 South, was ordered to close immediately for no more than 21 days. The order was issued on May 14.

The incident:

The agency, also known as Bright From the Start, was notified about the infant’s May 3 death on May 6.

During its investigation, Bright From the Start found the infant, after being dropped off that morning, was “engaged in an inappropriate-age activity where (it) had access to an item too small” and which was “capable of causing asphyxiation or strangulation,” prior to its death, according to the closure order.

That item was found to be a dried pinto bean, which was in a sensory bowl that “included dried pinto beans, hair bows, pacifiers and rubber balls” the infant was given, the order states.

According to the order, the infant put its hand in the bowl, took a fistful of beans and moved it towards its mouth. A staff member took the items from the infant’s hand and checked its mouth to see if there was anything else in it.

Staff members spotted the infant’s “abnormal” and “labored” breathing shortly after that, the order states.

Later that day, staff noticed the infant’s breathing was worse than before. The order states the center’s director took the child into an office, reached a family member and called EMS. When the infant’s mother arrived, the baby was “pale and crying,” the order explains.

The mother said she would drive her child to the hospital, which was a few minutes away, but the center director said she was in no condition to drive and that they should wait for EMS, the order states.

EMS was called several more times and eventually, the infant was taken to Coffee Regional Medical Center.

The order states the child suffered a heart attack while waiting for treatment and was then airlifted to a hospital in Savannah. A peanut-shaped item was found in the child’s throat and surgery was attempted.

“The attempts to remove the blockage caused the obstructive item to break into pieces,” according to the order. “After three attempts to remove the blockage from the infant’s airway, the infant died.”

Following the investigation:

Bright From the Start found that the child care center violated several rules for running a child care learning center, including rules for supervision, children’s health and activities for children.

Bright From the Start also found that the director told staff not to mention the incident with the beans.

“This failure to provide potentially life-saving information may have deprived the emergency medical technicians and hospital personnel of critical diagnostic information and a possible source of the breathing problem and discomfort early on,” the order states.

The investigation also found the director has “remained unavailable,” according to the order.

“This shows callousness and an indifference to the health and safety of children in care,” the order states.

The Coffee County Sheriff’s Office and the Coffee County Department of Family and Children’s Services (DFCS) are also investigating.

Bright From the Start said Akim Academy has the right to a hearing related to the order.

Read the full emergency order below:

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