25 Investigates: Falsified CPR certificates at day care where infant died

WATERTOWN, Mass. — The owner of Strawberry Child Care Center in Watertown, where a 5-month old died in September, acknowledged the CPR training certificates she submitted to state regulators were fake.

During a Division of Administrative Law Appeals hearing in Boston, Monica Ryan, told a magistrate that she believes CPR certificates for herself and another top administrator were doctored by an office volunteer who failed to pay for the certifications and instead photocopied the valid certificate of another employee to create bogus ones.

MORE: 25 Investigates: State shuts down Watertown day care after infant death

Ryan’s admission, which was part of her emotional testimony about the day the infant died, is central to the Department of Early Education and Care’s (EEC) order to suspend and revoke Strawberry’s license.

EEC investigators concluded that no one at Strawberry attempted CPR on the baby, according to the order.

EEC, the agency that regulates day care programs in Massachusetts, requires that all educators complete training in First Aid and CPR and renew their certification annually.

Under questioning by an attorney for EEC, Ryan said she submitted certificates for herself, another top administrator and one other employee to state regulators but was unaware that two of the documents were fraudulent. The volunteer who handled administrative duties now lives in Colombia but, according to Ryan, admitted to failing to send payments to the American Red Cross, the agency that had provided the training.

“I didn’t manage our files directly,” she told Kenneth Bresler, the administrative magistrate presiding over the hearing.

Bresler at one point asked Ryan directly why a volunteer had been put in charge of tasks like paying for critical certifications and questioned how she managed to miss the obviously doctored documents.

“You see the certificate of completion for [co-owner] Betty Mejia, and it’s got the same date, same instructor, and same certificate ID number? And it looks photocopied and not as crisp as the one for (employee) Nuria Sosa,” Bresler said.

On Sept. 26, EEC suspended and revoked Strawberry’s license to operate, just days after the baby girl was found unresponsive and was later pronounced dead at a local hospital.

The baby had apparently just begun to roll over on her own and was, at one point, face down on a play mat that day of the incident.  According to EEC’s revocation order, surveillance video showed the baby "spends three minutes and 24 seconds struggling to keep her head up.... no educator assists at this time."

The order goes on to say that even after the infant was later found unresponsive in a crib hours later, "approximately eight program educators can be seen moving about the room, cleaning up, and organizing papers. On two separate occasions, 'Child A' is left unattended on the changing table. None of the program educators attempt CPR."

Ultimately, it was someone from a nearby medical facility who came in and attempted CPR before emergency responders arrived.

Strawberry Child Care is prohibited from taking care of any children while its license is suspended.

The magistrate in this case is expected to decide whether to recommend lifting that suspension next month.

MORE: Report: Watertown day care workers failed to take action in infant's death

Comments on this article