SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

February 7, 2013

Baby left unattended at Leggs Hill YMCA

BY TOM DALTON
STAFF WRITER

---- — SALEM — The state is investigating an incident in which a 10-month-old baby was left unattended this week at the Lynch/Van Otterloo YMCA.

An official at the Y on Leggs Hill Road, on the Salem/Marblehead line, said two employees have been fired and the incident has been reported to the state.

“Two staff members failed to follow well-established check-out procedures, resulting in the child being left unsupervised within the babysitting room for approximately 2 to 5 minutes,” Executive Director Scott Hitchcock said in a statement.

“Such a mistake is unacceptable and resulted in the immediate suspension and termination of the two staff members. Following our protocols, we also notified (the Massachusetts Department of Children & Families).”

A Lynn mother, Katherine Gustafson, told Salem Police that she and her boyfriend went to the Y to work out and dropped off their 10-month-old son at the babysitting room at about 12:30 p.m. on Tuesday.

Around 2 p.m., Gustafson said she went back to pick up her baby and found the day care area dark and empty, police said.

She told police she looked around the room for her son and found him “in the corner of the room sleeping in one of the cribs.”

The baby was unharmed, police said.

The woman, whom police described as “extremely irate,” said she reported the incident to YMCA officials. She spoke with Salem Police yesterday.

An official at the YMCA of the North Shore, the parent organization, said the babysitting area closes at 2 p.m. and reopens at 4 p.m. The two employees, he said, left about five minutes early believing all the children had been picked up.

“Obviously, the two staff had not done their check-out procedure correctly,” said Jack Meany, CEO of the YMCA of the North Shore.

One of many steps, he said, is to check off the names of children when they are picked up.

“Obviously, they didn’t do that correctly and thought they had no children left,” Meany said. “It was real breach of procedures and created an intolerable situation. ... We just simply had our system break down.”

Hitchcock, the Y director, said they are extremely upset about the mishap at a facility where child safety is the “No. 1 priority.”

“As the executive director of this Y, I have been involved with this situation from the beginning, and I will remain involved assuring that such a situation does not occur again,” he said in the statement. “On behalf of our Y, we deeply apologize to the family for this experience.”

A spokeswoman for the DCF, a state agency, confirmed that they received a report of alleged abuse or neglect at the Marblehead Y and will look into it.

“We are investigating,” said Cayenne Isaksen.

The Salem News was not able to reach Gustafson.

Tom Dalton can be reached at tdalton@salemnews.com.