WESTERVILLE, Ohio (WCMH) — A mother’s tireless efforts to right a wrong may pay off after her toddler was left on a busy street, unattended by the daycare center that was in charge of him.
Imagine a 2-year-old wandering alone for five minutes along a very busy State Street in downtown Westerville. That is exactly what happened four years ago to Barbara Ward’s son, Chase. He and several other children had just finished a buggy ride from a playground used by the daycare when he disappeared.
Ward said the daycare center director called her just minutes before Children Services called.
“I remember crying at my desk and immediately calling my husband and telling him I am going to pick him up, he is not going there anymore.”
She removed her son permanently from the center after child care advocates told her the daycare was not being honest about his disappearance. Ward said the daycare did not notify her for two days after the 2-year-old went missing.
“It made me sick to my stomach to think about it, that we were intentionally misled,” Ward said.
She said Children Services told her they were very lucky.
“They were very honest with us that we were extremely lucky with the outcome that the gentleman that found him was an upstanding citizen that returned him, then took it one step further and reported this.”
The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) investigated the now-closed daycare and cited its director and a staff member for neglect.
Ward said she does not want other families to go through her terror. She spent the last four years talking with state officials about changes in the law that would notify parents of a serious violation. Eventually, she convinced State Representative Rick Carfagna to help.
“The issue that Barbara was driving home to me was when issues like this arise, often times other parents are not notified,” said newly-elected House member Carfagna, who represents Genoa Township.
He is sponsoring a proposal to mandate daycares to report past serious violations to parents.
“This notification would also steer them to the ODJFS website, where they already have a tracking system for these types of violations,” Carfagna said.
Ward said Chase is a happy, healthy first-grader with no memories of being rescued.
She has never met the driver, who Ward said spotted Chase standing alone right by the roadway. She said he stopped traffic, scooped Chase off the curb and delivered him back to the daycare.
Ward said that was made possible by an ID Chase wore from the center. She said surveillance video inside of the center showed he went missing for five minutes after he hid behind the entrance door and the staff member did not do a head count.
She said she would like to see the proposed legislation called Chase’s Law.
The proposal is still in the early stages and Carfagna said it has not been assigned a bill number.