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Nov 17, 2015 4:29 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Parents Of Child Involved In Alleged Abuse At Day Care Center File Notice Of Claim Against Several Agencies

Nov 18, 2015 10:21 AM

The parents of an infant who police said was abused by two day care workers arrested on child endangerment charges in August have taken the first step toward suing several agencies, claiming that they should have been aware of the mistreatment and acted upon it accordingly.

Caroline and John Stella of Bridgehampton filed a notice of claim on November 9 against Southampton Town and the Suffolk County Office of Child Protective Services, as well as, jointly, the State Office of Children and Family Services and State Board of Regents. The notice, which is a first step toward a civil lawsuit, accuses the agencies of failing to monitor the care of children at Side By Side Child Care Center on North Sea Road in Southampton, and for not being aware of how the children were treated. The couple utilized the center to provide care for their infant daughter while they worked.

In August, the Stellas’ daughter, then 18 months old, had vomited after allegedly being force fed by Sarah Dawber, an employee at the center. The event was described in a detailed account to Southampton Town Police by Kennedy Williams, a former teacher’s assistant, who said he had seen Ms. Dawber use her hand to force the child’s head back against the headrest of a high chair as she forced pieces of a roll into the child’s mouth, all while yelling at the child.

Another employee at Side By Side, Lori Martin, had told police that on a different occasion she saw the other worker, Kathleen Culver, who was later arrested, pull a child out of a high chair “really hard” and slam him on the ground, hitting his head, after she became frustrated because he would not eat. Ms. Martin said she had told one of the center’s owners, Kimberly Bobrowsky, but “nothing was ever done.”

Ms. Dawber and Ms. Culver were arrested by Town Police following an investigation of the facility and were each charged with endangering the welfare of a child. They were both terminated from their positions.

The notice of claim was filed for the Stellas by Water Mill-based attorney William K. Polignani. On Tuesday, Mr. Polignani said he could not comment on whether his clients will actually pursue a lawsuit, adding that the notice of claim protects that option.

Mr. Polignani said that the Stellas’ daughter has been under medical supervision since the force feeding event took place in August. He noted that the infant has since displayed agitation and excessive crying, and often does not want to sit in a high chair or be around other children.

“A child can’t express in words what it’s feeling,” Mr. Polignani said. “The types of injuries that would be caused by these events are the kind that, in my opinion, would manifest themselves over time.”

The attorney added that the Stellas are still devastated by the treatment of their daughter and are “practically incapacitated with anger.”

“These infants deserve the highest quality of care,” he said. “This is the Hamptons—you’d think there would be a degree of increased concern over protecting vulnerable infants.

“They should’ve had notice, they should’ve known what was going on,” he said of the agencies targeted by the notice of claim. “Especially if there were any complaints made months before.”

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Sue! Sue! Sue!
By Frank Wheeler (1809), Northampton on Nov 17, 15 7:12 PM
“This is the Hamptons—you’d think there would be a degree of increased concern over protecting vulnerable infants.

Say what?
By But I'm a blank! (1283), Hampton Bays on Nov 17, 15 11:34 PM
1 member liked this comment
I agree- that comment was incredible. If this is the lawyers's rationale for suing all these agencies I doubt it will sit well with a judge and jury. I can only imagine a juror thinking, "my own infant in day care doesn't deserve the "highest quality of care" and " increased concern" that babies in "the Hamptons" do?? Whether or not there is merit to the parents' case, their lawyers remarks are very telling.
By fishcove (36), southampton on Nov 18, 15 4:55 PM
Ambulance chasers; can't live with em, can't shoot em.
By bird (755), Sag Harbor on Nov 18, 15 6:04 PM
Where did that ambulance chaser 'lawyer' come from? Not any one I recognize.
By summertime (589), summerfield fl on Nov 19, 15 11:09 AM