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After 2 infant deaths in 2 years, state suspends day care's license, promises reforms

The Broadway Children's Center on Northeast Broadway Street in Portland is closed after its certified child care license was suspended by the state.

State regulators say two infants cared for at a Northeast Portland day care have died within less than two years.

Now the facility's license is suspended and Oregon's Office of Child Care (OCC) is working to shut the facility down permanently.

Police say no arrests were made and an attorney for one of the day care's employees told KATU authorities have so far found no wrongdoing.

But the latest death is still under investigation.

The story was first reported by the Oregonian.

OCC leaders admit that overall they need to do better.

Miriam Calderon, the director of Oregon's Early Learning Division, which oversees the OCC, said she's working to strengthen its licensing program in part by increasing the number of unannounced inspections and speeding up enforcement actions.

On Oct. 4 Portland police and OCC officials said a 10-month-old boy was found unresponsive at the Broadway Children's Center on Northeast Broadway Street in Portland. He died two days later.

Officers said the medical examiner is still working to determine his cause of death and that the police bureau's child abuse team is investigating.

In an emergency order of suspension, the OCC calls the infant's death an "extraordinarily rare occurrence" because it's the second death associated with the facility in less than two years.

In April of 2016, the agency said another infant died under similar circumstances including the age of the child and staff members involved. The facility then submitted an infant safe sleep policy and was allowed to reopen.

Authorities said the "extremely concerning facts create a serious danger to the public."

An OCC spokeswoman confirmed a third child at the day care was diagnosed with a skull fracture in 2015, though the circumstances of that incident are unclear.

On Aug. 28, Dawn Woods, the OCC's director, told KATU her agency is addressing 25 recommendations made in a scathing audit published in January of 2016.

"We've learned that there's some new tools that we need to keep kids safe," Woods explained.

The audit said the state's regulatory system created an "elevated risk for major incidents of child harm" because staffing levels did not match the increasing workload. The report also recommended that the agency work to change laws to make it easier for emergency suspensions to be issued.

"We have addressed every recommendation in some way," Woods said. "It's not something we take lightly."

She and other state leaders are working on new legislation to strengthen child care regulations, which they plan to introduce during Oregon's next legislative session in 2018.

No one at the Broadway Children's Center is accused of wrongdoing and no one is under arrest.

The day care is now in the process of appealing the emergency suspension order.

Staff members at the Broadway Children's Center did not immediately respond to multiple emails and voicemails a KATU reporter left beginning Sunday.

Kelly Stover, whose two children attended the day care until the suspension, said, "Our thoughts and prayers are with both the family of the child and the staff of BCC. They have our complete confidence and support."

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