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Children in Water Without Supervision
The State of California Department of Social Services has cause to revoke or suspend any child care license if the licensee is found to have left a child alone or in the care of another young child, while the child is in any body of open standing water. The decision In re Newton-John sets the precedent for this area. In this case, a licensee who had never received a complaint nor been disciplined before, had five children in care. While bottle-feeding an infant, two five year olds and a four year old were in the back yard swimming pool by themselves. While the licensee’s chair was set up to look out onto the pool, a client walked into the child car home and found the licensee asleep while feeding the infant. This client subsequently removed the children from the pool and alerted the authorities.
The Office of Administrative Hearings ruled that even though the licensee had a good reputation with her clients and had never been disciplined, this event was inimical to the health, morals, welfare, and safety of the children and the license was to be revoked. The Department stated that “because of the foreseeable, serious risks associated with drowning and non-fatal submersion injuries, caregivers should never – even for a moment – leave a young child alone or in the care of another young child while the young child is in… a body of open standing water.” A body of open standing water includes a bathtub, pool, spa, or wading pool. When a child is in any water, the adult’s full attention should be focused on the child, and the adult should not be engaged in distracting activities. Even if the children are formally trained to swim, or are equipped with floatation devices, this does not substitute for actual supervision. The Department relied on statistics from the Center for Disease Control, which determined that drowning is the second-leading cause of injury-related death for children ages 1 to 14 years old. Most children who have drowned in pools had been out of sight from their supervisor for less than five minutes. Nonfatal incidents can cause significant brain damage ranging in long-term disabilities.
The Department ruled that this behavior was in violation of Title 22, California Code of Regulations, sections 102423(a)(2) (the right of a child to receive safe, healthful, and comfortable accommodations, furnishings and equipment), 102417 (the licensee shall be present in the home and ensure that children in care are supervised at all times), and 102417(5) (all licensees shall ensure the inaccessibility of pools through a cover or five foot fence). The Department has the authority to suspend or revoke any license under the California Heath and Safety Code, Section 1596.885. The Department takes a strict stance on action of this kind and whether the licensee in this case was asleep or not, would not have changed the outcome of this decision, as positioning herself indoors; feeding an infant was still placing the children in significant harm.