Little People Child Development Center was recently hit with a wrongful death lawsuit over the 2019 death of an infant.
When most parents leave their children in the care of a childcare center, there is an expectation that their children will be well cared for and loved. Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case. For example, earlier this week, the family of Isabella Talton filed a wrongful death and negligence lawsuit against Little People Child Development Center after the 4-month-old was found smothered to death in a crib back on September 5, 2019. The culprit was 19-year-old Dejoynay Ferguson. According to Delaware State Police, Ferguson said she “killed the baby because she wouldn’t stop crying.”
The suit was filed in New Castle County Superior Court and argues Ferguson was incompetent and inexperienced. When commenting on how the family is coping, attorney Timothy Lengkeek said, “They’re still sort of trying to figure out how what happened last September could have happened, and they’re mourning.” He added that the family has many questions and deserve answers. Some of those questions include the following:
“How is a 19-year-old employee with little to no experience allowed to be alone and in charge of a room full of babies? What kind of training did this person have? How was she was supervised? How was she monitored? Were there other acts of abuse against Isabella or other babies? What did the surveillance tapes show? A 19-year-old in a room full of babies, by herself, how could nobody else have heard what was happening in that room? How could nobody else have seen it?”
The lawsuit further alleges that Ferguson had a history of careless conduct, including “her behavior at the childcare center.” Additionally, the childcare center knew or should have known about this alleged reckless behavior,” according to the suit.
Shortly after the infant’s death, the childcare center was closed down by the state for a few weeks. When it reopened, it did so quietly and with regular check-ins from the Office of Child Care Licensing. When it reopened, the agency found no issues with the center.
Additionally, after the tragic incident, Joseph Smack, who was the public information officer for the Delaware Department of Children, Youth, and Their Families, stood up for Ferguson and said she was capable of caring for four babies at a time. According to the suit, Delaware law “calls for a child care ratio of four-infants-to-one-adult, while national best practices, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, call for a ratio of three-to-one.” At the time of Isabella’s death, Ferguson was watching three infants. Smack said:
“Because 19-year-olds are adults; they can register to vote, they can join the military, they can buy property, get married without consent, have children of their own, and in the case of Little People, there were actually three infants at that time in care, so it would not have prevented, even if we had a one-to-three ratio, it would not have prevented that ratio.”
When questioned whether the state’s childcare center regulations are strong enough, Lengkeek said:
“So the state regulations are the minimum that a daycare provider must comply with in order to stay open, but there’s more to it than that. There’s going to be an industry standard or standard of care that would apply to daycare providers–and that’s going to go beyond and include other things that the state regulations require. So even though the state may have said, ‘Yes you meet all of our minimum requirements,’ the question still is–did they meet the industry standard in terms of having a 19-year-old in a baby room by herself…There’s a lot of things that you can be held civilly liable for that may not necessarily be included in the state regulations.”
He also noted that, over the course of the last decade, Little People Child Development Center has received more than two dozen complaints, and Lengkeek expects that more will step forward as news of the lawsuit circulates.
For now, Ferguson is facing a criminal murder charge and is being held on a $1 million cash bond. Lengkeek wants the childcare center to take some responsibility for Isabella’s death, though, which is why he filed the recent civil case against it. He said:
“The reason why the case was filed is…to hold the daycare responsible for what their employee did. This should never have happened, and we do not want it to happen to any other parents in this state.”