Regulators decertify Indianapolis day care where child drowned

A child drowned Wednesday at the Praise Fellowship Assembly of God Church day care.

State regulators are trying to keep children out of an Indianapolis church-run day care until they are certain those kids are safe.

A one-year-old boy apparently drowned inside the Praise Fellowship Assembly of God Church. It appears as if the state is powerless to close it down.

Parents bringing children back to the church-run day care, will have to pay full price. State regulators decertified the program, meaning it is no longer eligible for tax-funded vouchers that reduce the cost.

"Fewer kids will be going there," said Melanie Brizzi, administrator of Indiana's Bureau of Child Care, adding that as many as 28 children may no longer attend the day care.

Bureau workers notified each family, providing advice on finding another day care.

"So hopefully the children we can impact, we've done so and they will be in a safer facility on Monday," Brizzi said.

Wednesday, a one-year-old boy apparently drowned in the church's baptismal pool. Police and Child Protective Services are still investigating. Regulators would like to prevent any children from coming back until they are certain they'll be safe.

"I would like to make sure the children are supervised carefully, that the staff has training on how to manage a classroom, to make sure children are supervised." Brizzi said, but she conceded state law does not give the agency that authority.

Aside from essential health and safety regulations, state law exempts church-run day cares from the more stringent rules imposed on licensed facilities.

The Bethany Evangelical Lutheran Church is one of the few day cares voluntarily holding itself to higher standards.

"The children deserve the best quality care we can give on a daily basis," said Debbie Rhorman, the church's child care director

The optional state certification program demands higher safety standards, teacher training, and limits on the number of children each adult can supervise.

"Trying to hold us to regulations and accountability. Accountability is a great thing when it comes to taking care of other people's children," Rhorman explained.

The children losing the state vouchers account for the majority of the students enrolled in the Praise Fellowship Assembly of God day care. A church answering machine says only that the day care is closed through Friday. On Thursday, a minister answered the phone, saying the day care "will open when it opens." He refused to answer any questions.

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