A call for more day care inspections and transparency

The legislation comes in the wake of Kingsbridge Heights 1-year-old’s death


Nearly three months after a 1-year-old Kingsbridge Heights boy tragically died from fentanyl exposure at a Fordham day care, elected officials introduced legislation that would require inspectors to thoroughly inspect the full premises of childcare facilities.

The bill would also offer parents a right to transparency.

The sponsors — state Sen. Gustavo Rivera and Councilwoman Pierina Sanchez — gathered last Thursday at Fordham Road and Grand Concourse, alongside District Attorney Darcel Clark, Bronx borough president Vanessa Gibson and Shanita Bowen, chief executive at Early Childhood Educators On The Move.

The parents of the 1-year-old Nicholas Feliz Dominici were also there. Otoniel Feliz Samboy and Zolia Dominici want to avert what happened to their child, who was under the supervision of Divino Niño Daycare on Sept. 15. On that date, Nicholas was rushed to the hospital after he showed symptoms of exposure to the lethal drug, which was stored underneath the mat where he slept and played.

“This young man lost his life due to exposure of fentanyl in a day care center, a place where thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers leave their children everyday, expecting them to be safe,” Rivera said. “So we wanted to make sure that first of all that we do not forget Nicholas’ name and over the last couple of months the councilmember (Sanchez) and I have been working diligently to put together pieces of legislation to actually address some of the concerns that were expressed by the parents.”

Nicholas was one of four children exposed to fentanyl at Divino Niño Daycare. The other three between the ages of eight months and 2 years were hospitalized. At the scene police recovered six kilos of fentanyl in a closet and two kilo press devices. They also discovered a trapdoor concealing bags of fentanyl and other narcotics.

Just more than a week before Nicholas’ death, the Office of Children and Family Services conducted an annual unannounced inspection at the center that cited no violations, with the city agency stating then that the center was compliant in keeping poisonous, toxic and dangerous items away from children. In response to criticism Mayor Eric Adams defended the city inspectors, saying they did everything they were supposed to.

“Nicholas Feliz Dominici should have been safe at this daycare facility,” Sanchez said in a news release. “The Feliz Dominici family did everything right, from working with trusted community institutions, to vetting licensed day care providers. Yet, government protocols failed to catch possible warnings at this facility, and the ongoing scourge of the illegal opioid drug trade robbed us of a beautiful young life.”

That is where in theory the proposed legislation would overcome limited protocol. In addition to requiring inspections of the full premises of child day care homes and facilities, the legislation also mandate providers disclose to the office of children and family a list of all people who reside in a home that also functions as a day care. It also requires all providers to receive training for providing and maintaining onsite opioid receptor antagonists, such as naloxone and naltrexone, in the event of an emergency.

Rivera’s bill is the first in a state legislative package that will be introduced by Assemblyman George Alvarez. On the city council Sanchez will introduce a similar version of the bill. A second state bill aims to explore a pilot program to support working families in need of child care and the last bill will be a resolution calling for Rivera’s legislation to be signed into law.

“It was precisely on the thought we want to make sure this doesn’t happen again that the bill was created,” Rivera told The Riverdale Press. “The issue here will be multi-pronged. It addresses the inspectors for the facilities, the operators as well, as well as parents.”

Rivera explained how the bill would allow parents to investigate for themselves if a child care facility is a safe place to send their children. If passed, operators would have to display the fact that parents can inspect a facility before sending their children there.

Commenting on the legislation, Clark said it helps so that inspectors “don’t just superficially look in these places. That they thoroughly look into who’s living in these facilities, who’s staying there, what is happening, look under every nook and cranny because you know what?

“It was under the floorboards that this fentanyl was found. Who would have thought that? But you know now with this legislation they’re not going to have to think about it, they’re going to have to be about making sure that it gets done.”

Four people were arrested and charged with federal and city charges in connection to the fentanyl exposure at Divino Niño Daycare. The arrests included the owner of the day care, Grei Mendez and her husband, Felix Herrera Garcia, who are both facing murder charges.

“It was a betrayal of our trust and as New Yorkers and as elected officials we are outraged,” Gibson said. “The pain has not gone away for this family. The holiday season, such a painful reminder of their loss. Well one thing I do know as New Yorkers and Bronxites, we somehow find purpose within our pain.”

Feliz Samboy and Dominici stood at the press conference, hands held and teary eyed as they listened to electeds and spoke about their son, who had only been at the daycare for a few days and was just a couple months short of turning two.

“Our hearts are in pain,” Feliz Samboy said of three months passing since the death of Nicholas. “We are feeling the same because this horrible thing doesn’t go out of our minds and then it’s impossible for us to try to find a way to live with this pain.”

The grieving father lamented prior promises from government and nonprofits that never came through, adding that “it’s another pain.”

Commenting on inspections, Feliz Samboy said that surprise inspections need to be on the first part of the law, something that Rivera acknowledged he hadn’t necessarily considered while drafting the legislation but said he would think about it.

“As far as surprise inspections, it does make sense,” Rivera told The Press a few days after the news conference.

“As far as changes to the bill, I’m looking into it. I’m not certain whether changes to the bill would be required. The bottom line, I certainly think (Feliz Samboy) has a point.”

He noted that while he hadn’t considered the unannounced inspections, the bill sets standards the agencies conducting the inspections have to abide by. Such as being able to identify drugs and other drug paraphernalia, as well as requiring inspectors to do a visible check of every room, including even closets.

The bill has the support of U.S. Rep. Adriano Espaillat. State Sen. Robert Jackson told The Press he would likely support it given the description provided to him.

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