18 violations found at church day care where child drowned

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A local church day care will be closed the rest of the week as police investigate the death of a one-year-old boy.

Police say the boy drowned in the baptismal pool at the Praise Fellowship Assembly of God Church on Michigan Road near West 67th Street.

The last inspection by the Family and Social Services Agency was just three months ago. Inspectors found 18 various health and safety violations.

Several employees were missing criminal history checks. Also, there was no documentation of checking for child abuse or neglect for employees.

All day care centers are inspected by the state, but the majority of day care ministries fall under different guidelines than non-religious centers. State inspectors only have the authority to enforce basic health, safety and sanitation regulations.

"There is a huge difference," said Melanie Brizzi, administrator of Indiana's Bureau of Child Care.

Brizzi says, had the church's facility been licensed, there would not have been a two-foot deep pool in the building in an unlocked room.

"No, that area would have been inaccessible to children," she said.

Licensed day cares must also follow staff-to-student ratios and keep children within sight and sound at all times. Church-run day cares are exempt from those rules, as well, and have been an issue at the Statehouse for decades. Legislation imposing tougher restrictions on them has ignited church versus state battles. The proposals have failed miserably.

"It got really bad last year, because I was trying to do this. I was called an atheist. Emails went out against me," said Rep. Vanessa Summers (D-Indianapolis).

Summers says she predicted a child would die before the rules were changed.

"If day cares can go with 26 pages of regulations, the child ministries can do the same," Summers said.

In less than three years, inspectors documented 26 pages of violations at the Praise Fellowship Assembly of God. Inspectors also found accumulations of dirt and debris, baby formula and food with passed expirations dates, urine-filled training toilets and other health and safety violations.