Familes sue Victoria day care center over alleged neglect, assault

Jessica Priest By Jessica Priest

Nov. 14, 2013 at 5:14 a.m.
Updated Nov. 15, 2013 at 5:15 a.m.

Pictured is Bearly Beginning Day Care Center on Lawndale Avenue in Victoria in April 2013. The center and its owners also face a lawsuit.

Pictured is Bearly Beginning Day Care Center on Lawndale Avenue in Victoria in April 2013. The center and its owners also face a lawsuit.

Three families are suing a Victoria day care center.

They claim Bearly Beginning Day Care Center, 2005 Lawndale Ave., and its owners, Steve and Maribel Alkek, were negligent because they starved and injured children as well as did not properly vet employees.

The plaintiffs - Gabrielle Alvarado, Albert Flores, Veronica Nicole Trevino and Ken and Jill Hoak - are suing on behalf of their children, who were cared for at the day care. The case was filed in the 135th Judicial Court in mid-August.

And while the amount of damages they may receive will be up to a jury, the plaintiffs put down on paper a ballpark estimate - $3 million.

"We want to allow a jury to determine the amount," said the plaintiffs' attorney, Bradley Leger of Leger Adkins lawfirm in Houston. "We were forced by a rule of procedure to state a specific amount, thus we stated a maximum of $3 million."

When contacted by telephone Thursday morning, Maribel Alkek referred all questions to her attorney, Willie Ben Daw III, of Houston.

Daw declined to comment.

In Daw's original answer, he denied all the claims and wrote that the incidents in question were caused by the negligence and wrongful conduct of a third party who is out of the Alkeks' and Bearly Beginning Day Care Center's control.

In April, the State Department of Family and Protective Services confirmed the center was placed on probation, which meant the facility would be randomly inspected to determine whether it was complying with a myriad of safety and health standards.

The Alkeks suggested then that disgruntled workers were anonymously complaining about the owners because they disliked a woman hired as their supervisor. The Alkeks believed that same supervising woman, who was accused of starving and injuring children, was innocent.

During the past two years, the state evaluated 2,890 standards at the day care center. It found the center violated the standards 75 times.

Sixty-two of those violations, which the department refers to as deficiencies, were considered to be a high or medium-high risk, according to information in its online database.

Mary Walker, a spokeswoman for the department, said Bearly Beginning Day Care Center's probation began in February and was to last for six months.

The probation was extended in July for an additional six months because it received a high number of deficiencies considered to be high or medium-high risk, she said.

Walker was not aware of the pending lawsuit but said since probation began for the center in February, it has received 23 more deficiencies.

One deficiency narrative listed in the department's online database describes how the center hired a caregiver without running a Department of Public Safety background check on him or her, while another says a caregiver did not wash a child's hands after changing his or her diaper.

In the lawsuit, Alvarado claims she and her 4-year-old son were traumatized after a worker threw away his food because he was not eating fast enough. He was forced to watch other children eat and is only cared for by family now.

Trevino and Flores claim that Sept. 17, 2012, they discovered their 1-year-old son's formula was still sealed in his diaper bag, indicating he had not been fed all day.

And the Hoaks claim that not only was their 11-year-old son physically assaulted and falsely accused of stealing a Nintendo DS, workers did not intervene when another child poked him near the eye with a sharp stick, according to court documents.

"The abuse of children at a day care facility is outrageous and should not be tolerated," Leger said. "The defendants in this case have shown no remorse to the innocent children who were abused at their day care facility - justice mandates accountability."

Leger is asking a judge to compel the defendants to comply with discovery requests. He is asking for incident reports and any documentation that would show whether the children were fed and when, which the center is required by law to keep.

The case is scheduled for a motions hearing Nov. 25.

The Alkeks also own Bearly Beginning Day Care Center 2, which is at 3803 Miori Lane in Victoria. It is not the subject of this lawsuit. For the past two years, it was cited for 20 deficiencies, 17 of which were weighted as high or medium high.



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