"Serious concern about safety:" Day care shuttered after 2nd death in as many years

PORTLAND, Oregon — Regulators in Oregon have shuttered a day care after a second baby died there in as many years, an unprecedented number of deaths at a single day care center for the state.

Authorities said the 10-month-old boy died two days after he was found not breathing at Broadway Children's Center in Portland on Oct. 4. A medical examiner has not yet said what caused it. No one has been arrested or accused of wrongdoing, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported.

A 7-month-old died at the facility in April 2016. Investigators determined that death to be sleep-related and said there was no abuse or neglect involved.

The infants were under the care of the same person when they died, and the state said this month's death occurred under "similar circumstances" as the previous one, the newspaper reported. The state said Friday it plans to close the center permanently.

Oregon has recorded eight deaths at licensed day cares since 2007, according to the Office of Child Care. There are more than 4,000 facilities in the state, and there had never previously been two deaths at the same location.

"This is unprecedented for us," said Lisa Morawski, a state childcare spokeswoman. "Two deaths in this span of time gives us serious concern about the safety of the facility."

Owner Celeste Probasco-Artharee said in a statement that her center will cooperate throughout the investigation.

"The Broadway Children's Center community is devastated by the tragedy that has taken place," the statement said. "Broadway Children's Center owners and staff have and will continue to fully cooperate throughout this process. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family."

The day care, which has been licensed since 2010, has appealed the state's emergency suspension.

Kelly Stover, who sends her two daughters to the center, told the newspaper she and other parents are pushing for it to reopen. She called the day care's workers nurturing and wonderful, and said they "practice every safety precaution I can imagine."

"I know the people," she said, "and I know that there's no way that they did anything to cause harm to a child."

After last year's death, regulators closed the facility briefly, but allowed it to reopen with restrictions on the number of infants in care. They also required Broadway to create a "safe sleep policy."

Ryan Anfuso, a Portland attorney who represents the worker who took care of both of the children who died, said the worker has not been found to have done anything wrong.

"Every child in Oregon does deserve the highest quality of care, and immediate action and change are certainly in order in instances of abuse, and where the state has failed in its role to regulate," he said. "But we don't know what happened. And scapegoating a childcare provider isn't going to give us the answers that this young child, his family and our community needs."

The parents of the 10-month-old who died declined to comment Friday through a family spokeswoman.