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Published: Wednesday, 10/2/2013 - Updated: 1 year ago

Parents look for new day care after son flees unnoticed from YMCA

BY MATT THOMPSON
BLADE STAFF WRITER
YMCA Adventure Center day care at 210 E. South S. Boundary Street. in Perrysburg. YMCA Adventure Center day care at 210 E. South S. Boundary Street. in Perrysburg.
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Perrysburg parents of a 2-year-old boy who ran out unnoticed of YMCA day care on Friday are looking for a new day care.

Police found the boy, Sullivan Harris, running barefoot near Louisiana Avenue, after getting a call from a resident who saw the child unattended. 

The boy walked out of the YMCA Adventure Center at 210 E. South Boundary St. The boy's father, Justin Harris, was called by police and had a 50-minute drive from work in Oak Harbor to the police station where he could "try to calm down and get a level head," he said. 

"It was an unfortunate series of events that put my little boy in harm's way," Mr. Harris said. "Obviously I'm upset, but I'm trying to keep a calm head. I am grateful he is safe and with his parents."

He said the past few days have been a "roller-coaster of emotions" from hearing about the incident and working with the social services officials as they started an investigation. The only contact Mr. Harris has had with the YMCA is initially when he picked up Sullivan from the police station and talked to YMCA members there. He withdrew both of his sons from the day care.

According to the Perrysburg police report on the incident, several calls were received of a small child running barefoot near Louisiana Avenue near the Post Office. Two officers picked up the child.

The report said a YMCA staff member said she and a lead care giver were in the room at the day care with several children, including Sullivan. She said Sullivan often moves from station to station, and when a staff member realized she did not see Sullivan, she asked the other day care worker where he had gone. Both looked around the room and searched the grounds. As they expanded the search, police called to tell them the boy was in their custody.

The first call to police about the running child was at 10:27 a.m. When police called the YMCA at 10:50 a.m. why the day care hadn't called in 23 minutes, a worker said it was because the day care knew someone else had called, the report said. The police said the day care should have called.

"We are extremely grateful that the child is safe and in the care of his parents," the YMCA said in a statement, declining to answer questions. "The safety of the children in our programs is our number one priority. We do everything we can to ensure the safety of the children and are investigating this incident to determine if any additional safety measures can be implemented."

The police sent a report to the Wood County Children Services for review. The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, which licenses and inspects child care centers, is in charge of the investigation. The state department's spokesman Benjamin Johnson, who didn't know of the Perrysburg situation, said investigations can close down a center but that is rare unless the center has repeated serious violations.

"The center is required by law to notify us," Mr. Johnson said about an incident. "We launch an investigation and send a licensing specialist. If they have good inspections, but had a serious risk [situation] we make them correct it immediately. Maybe that is staff training, or maybe a change in the facility. They would need to make the correction immediately to continue [to operate]."

There are two unannounced inspections a year for the YMCA Adventure Center -- one was in July and the other was Sept. 17. In July, the center had no violations and in September, there were only two paperwork violations that were fixed a week later. 

"I hope the Y[MCA] is proactive and make changes to their facility or training to prevent this from happening again," Mr. Harris said. 

Melinda Harris, Sullivan's mother, had to take work off Tuesday to try to find a new day care for her children. 

"It is something no parent should have to go through," Mr. Harris said.

Contact Matt Thompson at: mthompson@theblade.com, 419-356-8786, or on Twitter at @mthompson25.



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