HICKSVILLE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – A Long Island day care owner is facing charges after toddlers in her care were found wandering alone in Nassau County, and now the state is moving to shut down the business.
Police said a 44-year-old driver spotted two children around 10:50 a.m. Monday along Jerusalem Avenue near Eighth Street in Hicksville, reports CBS2’s Clark Fouraker.
A 3-year-old girl was standing in the right lane, while a 2-year-old boy was in the grass nearby.
“I saw a lot of cops, right here in the corner and over there,” said construction worker Andreas Lemos.
Police said the children had left Chella’s Childcare, Inc., on Jerusalem Avenue through an unlocked back gate.
According to the Office of Children and Family Services, Chella’s Childcare, Inc. has been licensed since December of 2016. After learning about the recent incident, the agency ordered the daycare to immediately cease operations.
The owner, 24-year-old Graciela Castro, was charged with two counts of endangering the welfare of a child.
The state is now investigating the day care, which neighbors say has been open for about a year and a half.
“I’m surprised that this incident happened, because they’re always on top of everything. Somebody slipped up somewhere and left the gate open, I suppose, or the backdoor,” said neighbor Mark Rubanow. “They’re really nice people, very caring. They do tend to a dozen kids or better. When I see them out during the summer, the kids are well cared for, the property is well maintained.”
Another neighbor said people “drive crazy” along the roadway where the kids were found.
“It’s terrible, it’s really bad,” she said. “There’s been so many car accidents.”
“Under the circumstances, I’m just happy that the child was not hurt, that somebody took it upon themselves to stop,” said Rubanow. “It’s unfortunate, it’s an accident.”
No one from the daycare would answer questions about the incident. Investigators say they’ve determined the kids got out through an unlocked back gate.
Castro appeared in court Monday and was released. She’s due back in court on Dec. 17.