BELMONT, Calif. - A trial is expected to start in San Francisco in December that puts the spotlight on child care centers at non-traditional locations like health clubs, supermarkets and even churches. As 7 on Your Side's Michael Finney found out, most of these facilities have very little regulatory oversight.
The trial will center around a young Belmont boy who suffered a head injury two years ago while at child care at a health club. He continues to undergo rehabilitation.
Roman Elman, 5, enjoys playing with Legos like so many other children.
Two years ago, his mom dropped him off at child care provided by the Bay Club in Redwood Shores. An employee found mom changing in the locker room and gave her news her son had been in a terrible accident.
She ran to him not knowing what to expect.
"I saw blood running all over right under his cheeks, around into his mouth, around his ear," said Elman's mother Elena Philips. "There is a lot of blood all over."
Paramedics said in their report that Elman suffered a "head laceration two inches in length and fairly deep."
Expert says parents should ask questions when choosing child care
The paramedics quoted the children as saying, "Roman ran into the window and fell down."
An internal report filed by Bay Club indicates the care worker "did not see Roman hit his head on the window sill. Other kids saw it happen and called her over."
Roman's mom Elena says this is how her son consistently tells a therapist what happens. A psychotherapist hired by the family's lawyer examined Elman in June and said he continues to display symptoms of post-traumatic stress syndrome.
The doctor determined his memory is impaired and displays frustration and anxiety. His parents provide him with visual cues about his daily routine at the advice of a doctor.
Roman is currently seeing a speech therapist, an occupational therapist, a physical therapist and a fourth therapist for PTSD.
Roman's father Serge has trouble putting his emotions into words. "It's very difficult," he said.
Perhaps surprising to many parents, the day care at most health clubs, supermarkets and churches, may not need a license.
Facilities are exempt from licensing if parents are at the facility while children are in day care.
Linda Asato is with the educational and advocacy group, California Child Care Resource and Referral Retwork. She says parents need to ask questions.
"I'd want to know if they have some basic health and safety knowledge," said Linda Asato of the California Child Care resource and Referral Network. "I'd want to know a little bit about that facility, that they are safe."
Attorney Anna Dubrovsky alleges, based on depositions with the employees that the daycare staff was distracted by cleanup duties and untrained in child care. "None of them have any training in child care development education, early childhood development education."
The Bay Club said it could not comment and its attorney did not respond to requests for an interview, but in papers filed in court. She wrote, "No acts of omission by the defendant was a substantial factor in bringing about damages alleged" and that the "lawsuit fails to bring facts sufficient to constitute an award."
"If you look at the window, it's on the base board level and those sharp edges are extended out," said Serge.
The state cited the Bay Club for not having a license because it also provides child care for parents who want to leave the facility. The club subsequently curtailed that program below the minimum threshold and is now exempt from licensing requirements.