Day care mum on toddler's death, but mother anxious for answers

15-month-old's mother told her son apparently choked on something

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Tip Top 24 Hour Learning Center off Blanding Boulevard appeared to reopen Monday for the first time since a 15-month-old boy who was hospitalized and died, but the owners did not answer the door when News4Jax visited or returned messages left asking what happened last Thursday.

Getting no answers at the business, News4Jax also went by the listed address for the owner. There was a car was in the driveway, but no one answered the door.

The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office and Florida Department of Children and Families are conducting separate investigations into the death of Malik Baker. Those investigations are likely to take weeks.

In a statement, DCF press secretary DaMonica Smith called Malik's death a tragedy and said they are working with JSO to get to the bottom of what happened.

"We have deployed child care inspectors to this facility. If it is found that anyone hurt this child, we will hold them fully accountable," Smith wrote.

Malik’s parents are anxious for answers, wanting to know how and why their son died.

Malik’s mother said a day care worker told her she stepped out of the room for a minute and when she came back, Malik was unresponsive. A JSO report says he had to be revived six times and that doctors at Wolfson Children's Hospital said he had severe brain damage.

Malik’s mom was told nothing found in her son's throat, but there was trachea damage to indicate he had choked on something.

DCF can’t give much information because its investigation is ongoing, but the agency did say the case is being evaluated by its Critical Incident Rapid Response Team because either Malik or one of his siblings was the subject of a separate DCF investigation in the recent past.

“Any time a child fatality occurs and any member of the household has a history with the child welfare system within the previous five years, a quality assurance review is conducted by child welfare experts from DCF," the agency said in a statement.

Malik’s mother, Amber Lee, said her family is devastated.

"We’re just waiting and it’s torture ... just waiting and not know nothing," Lee said. "If anyone has a child in day care, just please do your research. Know who’s got your kids' lives in their hands."

Lee said she wants justice for her son and hopes she can find that by one day opening her own safe, affordable day care center.

Since Tip Top opened in 2016, DCF inspections have found several Class 2 violations, including not having a credentialed director, an unsafe physical environment and insufficient staff.

The insufficient staff finding was from a May 2018 inspection.

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