An article published March 6, 2023 in the Herald Press addressed rumors that the YMCA’s Early Childhood Center was in danger of closing due to childcare violations.
YMCA Director Cindy Piersol issued a statement that the “Y” had three self-reported incidents in which a child was unintentionally not supervised for a short period of time, from seconds to a few minutes.
“This obviously is very upsetting to us, and we reported the incidents to licensing as soon as we were aware of them,” Piersol’s statement said. “Licensing immediately opened an investigation for each of these regrettable incidents and we have met with licensing staff during each thorough investigation, and the cases have been closed and reports posted as required. This is all a matter of public record. No child was harmed in any way, and processes have changed for shift change and transitions from playground to classroom have been modified to always ensure compliance and safety of all children.“
“I was shocked to read the story,” said Courtney Cobble, mother of one of the children who was left unsupervised. “As of this morning our case is still pending with the state.”
Cobble’s 23-month-old daughter, Trinity, was left alone outside on Feb. 23. She was discovered by a member of the YMCA billing department.
“Trinity had been going to childcare there for three weeks at that point, and we were having communication problems from the start,” Cobble said. “I was never notified about how she was doing, diaper changes, nothing.”
Cobble received an initial report regarding the incident on Feb. 23. Communication virtually stopped following the report.
“After three weeks I still have no idea what happened,” Cobble said. “I spoke with Cindy Piersol yesterday and she said the case was closed, but the state investigation is still open and pending.”
Cobble reached out to the state investigator for information on March 10. The investigator informed her that the case was not closed and that there was much more that has to take place with the investigation before it could be closed.
“I spoke with the investigator for about an hour,” Cobble said. “I think the worst part is that the incident with Trinity happened only an hour after the investigator had left after looking into a previous similar incident.”
Cobble pulled Trinity from the center the next day.
The incident investigation was closed by Texas Health and Human Services on March 13. Violations included Director Responsibilities - Operate in Compliance, Responsibilities of Caregivers - Supervision of Children and Responsibilities of Employees and Caregivers -Demonstrate Competency, Good Judgment, Self-control. All listed deficiencies were documented to have been corrected by the state as of March 13, citing advanced training and observed competency in all categories.
Cobble still has not heard from the YMCA. Neither the Early Childhood Center nor Piersol has reached out to her regarding the incident.
“The lack of care and concern is astounding,” Cobble said. “Where is the empathy? They told me that she was never in any danger, but how do they know? What if it had been summer during a 100-degree
day? What if a stranger had been walking by? It’s terrifying. They said that an internal investigation had been completed, but I haven’t been notified of anything. I think I deserve to know what is happening.”
Piersol was forthcoming in her response.
“I misspoke regarding the reports being closed," Piersol said. "The reports were posted and available, but they simply hadn’t been closed at the time I made my statement. It was my mistake. In no way do I want to diminish what happened. We are 100% responsible and she is very rightfully upset. We are doing everything in our power to ensure that this never happens again.”
Piersol detailed steps the Y is making in order to correct the circumstances that lead to the incident, including electively setting forth a corrective plan of action involving a sixth-month period of unannounced visits by the state to make sure the staff and management are following every corrective action.
“We are focusing on training and communication,” Piersol said. “We have in-house training already in place and we are working with Champions for Children to bring in outside training, which will hopefully point out any details we may have missed. We have also invested in WiFi extenders to keep all surveillance in real time and every worker is now outfitted with a walkie-talkie. Everyone now announces when they are changing locations and their count. The count is then verified by someone else after the move.”
As far as communication with Cobble, Piersol said it was simply procedure.
“We typically don’t continue communication after someone removes their child from our care,” Piersol said. “It’s how we have been advised as it serves no further purpose.”
Cobble insists that her intention is not to cast blame. She simply doesn’t want to see another parent experience what she has, and hopes to see the situation addressed.
“I quit my job to stay home with my daughter. I just don’t feel comfortable leaving her anywhere now,” Cobble said. “This needs to be addressed and fixed. Trinity was unharmed, thank goodness. But the next time it could be different. There could be a terrible tragedy and that should never be the case.”
“Regardless of the outcome, regardless of whether the child was in danger or not, this is something we never want to have happen. It’s unacceptable,” Piersol said. “We are taking every step possible to ensure every child’s safety who is in our care.”
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