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Three charged after toddler left in Chapel Hill day care van

Posted July 10, 2015

A 2-year-old child was left in a child care center vehicle on Tuesday, Chapel Hill police said.
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— The owner of a now-closed Chapel Hill day care and two former employees have been charged with child abuse after a 2-year-old was left inside a hot van for hours last month.

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services shut down Operation New Life on June 19, three days after the incident.

Operation New Life owner Michael Cureton and employees Dreama Johnson Caldwell, 37, of Mebane, and Rosa Lee Brigman, 30, of Chapel Hill, were each charged with felony child abuse by neglect. All three were released on unsecured bonds.

According to a DHHS report, the girl was left strapped in a restraint device in an Operation New Life van from 9 a.m. until about 3:30 p.m. while the temperature outside climbed to 100 degrees.

Staff members didn't contact emergency personnel or implement their emergency medical care plan, and they waited “for an extended period of time” before contacting the girl’s mother, Kimberly Cates, the report states.

Cates later took her daughter to a hospital, where she received treatment and was given fluids for dehydration. Cates said the girl's temperature had reached 105 degrees.

She said Cureton offered her a job and free tuition to keep the incident quiet.


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  • Pam Snyder Jul 12, 2015
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    I worked daycare forever! We have protocols to keep this from happening!! I say jail time. Especially since they tried to hide it!!

  • K Hope Capps Jul 11, 2015
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    View quoted thread

    Where to start with this post? Day Cares have regulations they have to follow. They don't make them up. Leaving her in the car was neglect, that's illegal. Covering it up is illegal. Trying to bribe the mother is illegal. Not seeking medical treatment? That's another form of neglect. Not notifying the parent/guardian? Illegal.

  • Brian Daugherty Jul 11, 2015
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    Leaving a child in the car on a hot day qualifies as child abuse and is illegal. Any action that a guardian or someone acting as a guardian, such as a teacher or daycare worker entrusted with children, that has potential to kill them or cause severe injury is child abuse. Every year children die from being left in a hot car, and if death does not occur they often have severe cognitive delays or other significant medical issues as a result. Check out SAFEKIDS Durham for more information if you are curious, or this link. https://www.facebook.com/AndreaBlanfordWTVD/posts/1107960282554532

  • H.D. Derrington Jul 11, 2015
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    Those employees were being paid to keep track of those children. This is not a silly task to be taken lightly. They were derelict in their duty. And they only told the truth because there was no one else to blame but themselves. I guess you and they think that a 2 year old child spending over 6 hours in 100 degree heat is a minor consideration. Most children would have died in less than 30 minutes. Thank goodness she survived.

  • Paul Jones Jul 10, 2015
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    Somebody neglected the child by leaving her in the van. Did the others do nothing when she was found? I assume they took care if her. What part of taking care of her was neglect or abuse? Not implementing procedures they themselves made up? Maybe they didn't apply. They could have lied to the mother, but was honest. No trying to keep the parents in the dark. Bad to do that, but illegal?

  • Rhonda Arthur Jul 10, 2015
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    They're lucky it wasn't worse and they aren't being charged with manslaughter. Thank God the little girl was ok.