Sunday, 13 March 2011

SIDS: Virginia: Tammy Futrell charged

Tammy Futrell ran a day care center in Portsmouth that a state inspector found to be unsafe.
Children under her care were sometimes left unattended and her yard was not safe for them to play in, according to an inspector's reports.
Futrell did not renew her state license in 2005. She told an inspector she would instead care for fewer children, which did not require a state license.
Three years later, Futrell became director of a church-based day care facility in Norfolk responsible for about 90 children.
On May 25 of last year, a 7-week-old died in a crib at Little Eagles Day Care. A grand jury indicted Futrell in January on charges of felony homicide and child neglect. Futrell has pleaded not guilty to the two charges.
A prosecutor said at a court hearing that some of the same problems an inspector documented at Futrell's Portsmouth centers contributed to the infant's death. Futrell's lawyer said the baby died of natural causes that had nothing to do with the quality of care.
Little Eagles, which operated on Little Creek Road, has since closed.
In Virginia, day care centers that receive religious exemptions operate with less government oversight than licensed centers.
Religious exempt centers, typically operated in houses of worship, are inspected to ensure that they meet city health, fire and building code requirements, said Susan Hackney, licensing administrator for the social service department's regional office in Virginia Beach. In addition, day care administrators sign forms stating that they will comply with state regulations, she said.
But social service inspectors only visit religious-exempt facilities in response to a complaint, Hackney said. Licensed day care centers, on the other hand, can be inspected without prior notification, she said.
About one-third of the larger day care facilities in the region, which includes South Hampton Roads and the Eastern Shore, are classified as exempt for religious reasons, Hackney said.
Little Eagles was run inside of Bethel Temple Church of Deliverance, which applied to the state to operate a religious-exempt facility in 2008. Futrell is the wife of the church's pastor, Melvin Futrell.
After the infant's death at Little Eagles, a social services investigation found that one or two employees were caring for 10 infants, according to the department's written report. The ratio violates state guidelines, which require one worker for every four infants.
At the time of the death, one worker was responsible for the sleeping infants, according to the social services report. That same worker was eating lunch with other staff members in a separate room, about 50 feet away, the complaint states.
Norfolk prosecutor Jill Harris argued at a January bond hearing that some of the violations at Little Eagles - including unsupervised children and unsafe conditions - mirrored problems that Futrell had at her previous day care. Some of those same violations contributed to the infant's death, Harris said in court.
Two other day care workers at Little Eagles have also been indicted on felony child neglect charges: Futrell's daughter, Angel Hoskie, and Dinnetta Feeney. Hoskie and Feeney have also pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Futrell and Hoskie are scheduled for trial next month, according to court records. Feeney is scheduled to appear in court in June.
Futrell's attorney, John Ste-panovich, said in an e-mail this week that the violations found at Little Eagles were unrelated to the infant's death. The baby died from sudden infant death syndrome, he said; the workers were not responsible.
Futrell had been operating a home day care since about 1998, Stepanovich said. Futrell always agreed to correct the violations found by the Department of Social Services and was never shut down by the state, he said.
"There was no reason to close her down," he said.
According to state records obtained by The Virginian-Pilot under the state Freedom of Information Act, Futrell was licensed between September 2003 and March 2005 to accept as many as 12 children between the ages of 6 weeks and 12 years at two homes in Portsmouth. The day care initially operated in the 1200 block of Rodman Ave., and then moved to the 300 block of Kay Road.
At both locations, a licensing inspector found violations and unsafe conditions for children, according to public records.
In 2003, an inspector noted that the backyard of the home on Rodman Avenue lacked proper fencing, which could have allowed children to play in the street.
During an unannounced visit in October 2003, the inspector wrote that she found the home "not safe for the five children."
The inspector found one day care worker asleep on the couch instead of watching the children, the report stated. It also noted that four children were in a back child care room without adult supervision.
The crib arrangement was also a concern. "It would be very unsafe to put a child to sleep in the room in its current condition," the inspector wrote.
"The terms of license are clear that you must be present in each child care room," the inspector wrote. "This means physically present in the room."
Futrell wrote in the report that she did not want to lose her license and would work to get in compliance with the state.
But problems surfaced again in February 2004, when an inspector found a portable heater about two feet from an occupied crib, according to a state report. Futrell agreed to move the heater.
On a later unannounced visit, the inspector knocked and rang the door bell, but no one answered. The inspector wrote in her report that she observed two vehicles in the driveway and another parked on the street in front of the home.
Futrell told the inspector a few days later that she would not renew her license.
Hackney said day care operators can lose their state licenses for serious infractions.
Other state agencies, such as Child Protective Services, can also inspect and determine whether a facility remains open, she said.
Futrell let her state license expire after 18 months, according to state records. She voluntarily registered as a smaller home day care with a local, non profit agency, according to state records.
Hackney declined to comment on the specific violations at Futrell's home day care and at Little Eagles in Norfolk.
Louis Hansen, (757) 446-2341,

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