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Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning investigating Lee County daycare

Officials investigating incident of child being left in van Friday afternoon

LEESBURG — State officials have stepped in to investigate the circumstances leading up to a young child being left in a van at a Lee County day care facility on Friday afternoon.

Lewis Harris, chief deputy for the Lee County Sheriff’s Office, said that a mother went to pick up her 4-year-old son Friday afternoon from Wee Kare on Spanish Court. When she got there, she was told the child’s father had picked him up. After she confirmed that was not the case, a search was conducted to find that the child had accidentally been left in the van after he had been picked up from pre-K.

It is estimated the child was left in the van for a couple of hours, officers said. The child was checked out by paramedics, and he appeared to be well enough to avoid a trip to the hospital, Harris said.

In the meantime, an investigation into the matter is currently being conducted by Bright from the Start: Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning (DECAL).

DECAL Commissioner Bobby Cagle said that interviews are being conducted with adults as well as children to piece together the circumstances of the incident as well as the history of center and whether there appears to be any immediate danger to the children there. It is too early to tell exactly how the investigation will play itself out, but the possible consequences could range from providing technical assistance to Wee Kare to an emergency closure of the center, Cagle said.

“In 2011, when we had a Clayton County death (connected to a child being left in a vehicle), we began to take a serious look at these incidents — not just with children being left in vehicles, but with omission of paperwork…,” the commissioner said in an interview with The Albany Herald on Monday.

This particular case, Cagle said, could constitute several violations in protocol including lapses in supervision as well as failure to follow the transportation checklist established by state officials. Cagle said the investigation will be finished in two weeks, he said.

“(Given the history of the center), this is not indicative of a larger issue,” the commissioner said. “This appears to be an isolated incident.”

Harris said the sheriff’s office will continue to look into the matter, but that no charges have been filed.