25 Investigates: 9-month old dies days after being found ‘unresponsive’ in caregiver’s Everett home

EVERETT, Mass. — Police in Everett are investigating the death of an infant who was found “unresponsive” at the home of a caregiver.

The woman who was being paid to watch the baby alleges the 9-month old girl was having difficulty breathing when she went to check on her on Friday afternoon, just a day after Thanksgiving. The baby was pronounced dead four days later at Boston Children’s Hospital.

An official cause of death is pending. But sources with knowledge of the investigation tell 25 Investigates the baby was found to have injuries consistent with “trauma,” including brain bleeding and a damaged spine.

Investigative reporter Ted Daniel started looking into the case after receiving a tip about the death. Our team visited the home where the baby was being cared for as well as the baby’s mother’s home.

The caregiver, whose name we are withholding, agreed to speak with us off-camera about the incident. Through our Spanish-speaking producer, she said the incident occurred about four hours after the baby was dropped off at her house. The baby appeared to be in distress and was gasping for air, she said in Spanish.

The 26-year-old woman said she was watching the baby to help out the mother, who she called an acquaintance. She was also watching four other children that day, including two of her own and her other friend’s two kids, she said. The caregiver said she called 911 and also tried calling the mother.

25 Investigates has learned the caregiver is not licensed to operate a home day care. Our team also attempted to speak with the baby’s mother, but a friend who answered the door said she was unavailable.

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A review of dispatch radio communications indicate first responders initially had difficulty locating the address, in part, due to a language barrier.

At one point a dispatcher is heard sending first responders to a red house at 52 Chestnut St. Moments later, a first responder is heard asking for a better description, adding that the house number does not exist and there is no red house. Later, the dispatcher is heard saying a translator is working to get better information from the caller. The following is an excerpt of the communication:

Dispatcher: We’re doing our best. They’re on a Spanish translator line right now and she keeps swearing it’s 52 Chestnut.

Responder: Interpreter was able to get it out of her. It’s going to be 52 Chelsea Street.

Dispatcher: Corrected address - 52 Chelsea street

John Doherty, an early education expert with NJ-based School Liability Expert Group and a former Massachusetts educator who specializes in child care regulations, said unlicensed child care has been a problem in Massachusetts and across the U.S. for a long time.

“It is most likely cheaper for parents to access that child care versus fully licensed child care,” he said.

He emphasized that licensing of day cares exists to ensure the safety and well-being of children. Licensed providers must demonstrate the ability to respond to emergencies “ranging from unconscious child to a lost child to, obviously, a fire evacuation that needs to happen at the facility,” he said.

“They are required to have basic first aid, and they have to have at least one person on-site that’s trained in CPR according to the regulations,” Doherty said.

In Massachusetts, a license is required to provide most child care services including family child care. But there are some exceptions, including “…informal arrangements among neighbors or relatives, or the occasional care of children with or without compensation…”

For an overview of Massachusetts standards for licensed daycares go to this link.

The Middlesex County District Attorney Office is also investigating the death. A spokesperson tells us the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner has accepted the case; a ruling on the cause and manner of death is pending.