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Day care worker arrested after boy left in van

JSO, DCF investigating child left in day care center's van for hours

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A Northside day care worker who police say left a 3-year-old in the school's van unattended Monday was arrested on child neglect charges, according to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office.

Shameka Delores Grant, 32, was interviewed and admitted to transporting the child and leaving him in the van before being arrested. 

The boy's father, Quinn Hodge, said his son was soaking wet when he was found at First Coast Young Stars Learning Center at 3911 North Main St., across from Jackson High School.

"We got him out.  He was hugging me and I was hugging him.  I'm just thanking God he was still alive," Jalisa Youngblood, the boy's mother, Jalisa Youngblood said.

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Youngblood said her son, Hadrian Hodge, spent hours alone Monday, stuck in a day care van and it wasn't until she stopped by the day care, and didn't see her son napping with the other children, that she realized something was wrong. 

"We looked at all the children that was laying down. And I asked the day care driver, where was Hadrian, and she said, ‘He should be in there somewhere.'  So we double-checked, and he wasn't in there, so my mind just told me to go look in the van," Youngblood said.

Youngblood said that was what the day care director thought as well and they both responded.

"We went to look in the van, and I saw he was sitting in the same seat that we put him in this morning.  He was scratching and disoriented.  We went in the day care van and I grabbed him out," Youngblood said.  

According to a release from Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, Grant (pictured in JSO booking photo) picked the child up from his home around 7:30 a.m. Monday morning, securing him in a car seat in the second row of the van.  Grant then dropped off other students at various schools before arriving at the day care facility around 8 a.m.  

Grant and other employees removed other children from the van but forgot the 3-year-old and left him strapped in his car seat in the van without air conditioning, food, water or supervision.

It wasn't until Youngblood arrived at the day care at 2 p.m. to pick up hers son before anyone noticed he was still in the van.

Police and the Department of Children and Families said they are investigating the claim that First Coast Young Stars employees left the child in the van alone for hours.

"We're definitely going to be investigating to get more information about what was going on," DCF spokesman John Harrell said.  "It is an incident that we're taking very seriously as far as we're hearing.  Bottom line is this.  There is no excuse to leave a child unattended in a vehicle at any time. That applies to parents, that applies to child care facilities.  It is inhumane.  It's potentially deadly."

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That's a sentiment that the little boys father and grandmother agree with. 

"Man, I'm sad and happy at the same time.  Sad it happened, but glad he's alive.  It's just a blessing he's alive, a blessing, a miracle.  People just got to be more cautious," Hodge said.  "When I got the phone call I just cried, I couldn't believe it.  I just feel like, somebody should be held accountable."

Santo Mack, the toddler's grandmother thinks it's a miracle that something worse didn't happen, especially after hearing similar stories of children left in cars who haven't been so lucky.

"If it would have been a little hotter, I feel like it would have been a different scene. Thank God it was cool today because he just turned three, Sept. 21.  So to leave a little child in big day care van with all the windows up is dangerous," Mack said.

Harrell said that DCF just learned about the situation and are investigating but said this isn't the first time the school has had issues.

According to Harrell, the school was working on a probationary license stemming from previous issues related to transportation and supervision.

"Too many children die from being left in the car, when the adult, all they've got to do is just take their time, check and make sure every child is off the day care van," Hodge said. 

Harrell said that the school was put on probation July 7 and had six months to fix the issues or its licensed would be revoked.

"These probationary licenses aren't that common.  Only two-percent of child care facilities in Duval County are actually on a probationary license.  We had some concerns but this puts it at a whole new level," Harrell said.

The day care, which has been opened since 2009, has a capacity of 77 students, was inspected Sept. 3 and had one minor violation.  


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