DHHR at fault for pool incident at child care facility, suit says

By John O'Brien | Sep 8, 2006

CHARLESTON - The state Department of Health and Human Resources is being blamed for an alleged incident that involved an infant being trapped in a pool under the cover.

Sabrina Adkins and David Stanley, the parents of Ethen Adkins, filed suit Aug. 28 in Kanawha Circuit Court against the DHHR and Wyoming County Opportunity Counsel, doing business as Mountain Heart Child Care Services.

The lawsuit alleges that Ethen Adkins crawled through a fence and into the pool of his child care provider and was trapped in it for seven minutes on Oct. 19. Adkins was only 1 year old at the time and turned 2 on Aug. 5.

But as a result, Adkins suffered hypoxic encephalopathy (lack of oxygen to the brain), profound developmental delay and a swallowing disorder that requires he be fed through a gastrostomy tube, the complaint says.

The alleged incident took place at the home of Judy Davis, who operates a child care service out of her home, the lawsuit says.

Sabrina Adkins said she contacted Mountain Heart Child Care Services, which put her in touch with Davis, when she was seeking a child care provider.

She says Mountain Heart and the DHHR have a relationship that make both libel for the child's injuries.

"Although they are not aware of the specific nature of the relationship existing between the defendants, the plaintiffs believe and therefore allege that Mountain Heart, pursuant to a contract with the DHHR, performs various services for the DHHR, including locating persons interested in being day care providers, providing training for day care providers, conducting inspections of homes and related day care services and making known to the public the identities of day care providers," the complaint says.

Davis, it adds, registered as a day care provider in 2001 and had her residence inspected for safety. She added the pool in 2003, though no inspection was ever performed afterwards to ensure its safety, Adkins says.

She says her son crawled through a hole in a screen and into the pool.

Larry Ford is representing the plaintiffs, who seek compensatory damages.

Judge Louis Bloom has been assigned the case.

Kanawha Circuit Court case number 06-C-1743

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