Child care center under investigation after 9-month-old boy dies in Douglas

Updated: May. 18, 2021 at 10:06 PM EDT
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DOUGLAS, Ga. (WALB) - Nearly 30 children were sent to other places for child care after the investigation into a 9-month-old’s death shut down a Douglas facility.

Investigators said the baby died several hours after a dried pinto bean got stuck in his throat. Now, Akim Academy has been forced to close due to an emergency closure order from the state.

Akim Academy in Douglas under investigation.
Akim Academy in Douglas under investigation.(WALB)
Akim Academy in Douglas under investigation.
Akim Academy in Douglas under investigation.(WALB)

The Coffee County Sheriff’s Office, Division of Family and Children Services as well as the Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning (DECAL), are all investigating the incident.

It’s not clear if charges will be filed and investigators are working to determine whether Akim Academy’s license will be pulled.

In the emergency closure order, it states that DECAL found eight violations.

Akim Academy could stay closed until June 4 while the investigation continues.

The deadline to appeal the closure was at 4 p.m. Tuesday afternoon and when WALB News 10 last checked Tuesday afternoon, no appeal had been filed.

Pam Stevens with DECAL said they investigate anything that happens at facilities.

“Any time this happens, it really is tough on our staff actually. We have people that work all over the state and we work very closely with child care programs,” said Stevens.

DECAL reports that the baby was dropped off at Akim Academy around 9 in the morning on May 3 for his first day at the center. By around 8 that night, the child was in another city, undergoing surgery before he eventually passed away.

“So, when a citizen or parent or someone who works at a child care center has a complaint or concern, we have to go in and do an investigation, very, very rarely but on occasion, we have to issue an emergency closure,” explained Stevens.

Stevens couldn’t discuss the current investigation. She did say that these closures only happen with very severe incidents when they feel other children may be in immediate danger.

Investigators look at videos, interview staff and families, and children if they’re old enough.

“It’s really hard and sad. You’re sad for the families, you’re sad for the people who work there. It’s tragic. We’re sad for everyone. It’s really hard. No one wants to see child care close,” said Stevens.

The last inspection report in early May shows Akim Academy had 27 children under its care from infants to 3-year-olds.

Stevens said parents impacted by the closure were helped and directed to other care centers in the area.

DECAL could not share parents’ information.

WALB tried contacting the center’s administrator for comment, but no one answered the phone. We have also requested surveillance video from the incident, but this is still a very active investigation.

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