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After toddler bitten 8 times at Arizona day care, parents want answers

PHOENIX – The parents of a 15-month-old girl in Arizona are seeking answers as to how their daughter was bitten eight times by another child during a day care session last week.

The child’s mother, Rocio Umsted, told The Arizona Republic that she dropped her daughter off at a Sunrise Preschools center in Maricopa at 9:50 a.m. Thursday.

Umsted said Sunrise Preschools failed to call her or her husband about what occurred. 

Staff told her husband that their daughter was bitten a couple of times and they applied ice before he came to pick her up at 5:30 p.m.

Umsted said the director, Amber Rice, later told her that there wasn’t enough time to call either parent between treating their daughter and her husband’s arrival.

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The incident quickly gained attention after Umsted posted pictures of her daughter’s bite-ridden back on social media. She’s since removed her daughter from Sunrise Preschools and placed her in a different day care center.

“She is not mentally and emotionally well,” Umsted said of her daughter. “Since the incident happened, she has night terrors and cries during the night multiple times. She has her guard up all the time and never wants to play with anybody.”

Dana Vala, president of Sunrise Preschools, issued a written statement apologizing for the incident while promising to investigate.

“This incident was heartbreaking and unacceptable, and we are working diligently to ensure it does not happen again,” the statement said. “We are reviewing all policies and procedures and will take whatever steps are needed to prevent this rare but serious matter from repeating itself.”

Vala said video footage showed the incident happened while a caregiver was changing a diaper. The caregiver was responsible for supervising four children when the biting occurred. 

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The caregiver has since been suspended without pay while the investigation is underway, Vala said. 

Umsted said she’s demanded Sunrise allow her to review the surveillance footage herself, but said she was denied for privacy reasons.

Umsted said she doesn’t believe the incident happened as quickly as Sunrise alleges.

“I want peace of mind,” Umsted said. “I want to see exactly what happened. They have this story they’re telling me about how all those bite marks happened within 30 seconds – I don’t believe that.” 

She has since filed a police report regarding the incident.

Michael Scerbo, a public relations specialist representing Sunrise Preschools, said he couldn’t provide additional comment. 

To care for more than five children for compensation, a person must be licensed at a child care center or be certified as a family child care home through the Arizona Department of Health’s Bureau of Child Care Licensing.

Child care facilities in Arizona are required to maintain a teacher-child ratio that varies depending on the age group of children. For 1-year-olds, the ratio is one adult per six children or two adults per 13 children.

Follow reporter Perry Vandell on Twitter @PerryVandell.

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