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CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. (WKBW) - Findings that would horrify any parent play out in the pages of an official document from the state Office of Children and Family Services after investigating the choking incident of 18-month-old Kadyn Levine at Doodle Bugs! Children’s Center in Cheektowaga.
Caseworkers with Erie County Child Protective Services wrote, “Kadyn appears to have gone at least partially unconscious while choking and was turning blue/purple, completely stopped breathing, went limp and was foaming at the mouth..."
His father, Ben Levine, said, “I’m relieved that someone agrees with that and hopefully change is gonna happen but at the same time it hurts me still that people are questioning something that’s so evident.”
Today, Kadyn is a happy, healthy little boy, but his parents wonder how close they really were to a different outcome. They turned to 7 Eyewitness News in August, concerned over the daycare’s response to the choking incident when discrepancies concerning the severity of this episode surfaced.
Erie County caseworkers and Doodle Bugs! agree – surveillance video of the incident shows Kadyn choking on a pretzel. But that’s where the agreement ends.
“It scares me only because the whole situation, I wasn’t informed property,” said Kadyn’s mother, Madison Broesder.
At the core of this investigation is surveillance video from inside Kadyn’s classroom at the daycare.
Levine said, “It shows his back arched, the hands are dangling, his head’s back, no support, helpless… he’s helpless.
7 Eyewitness News went to Doodle Bugs! President and CEO Anthony Insinna when the incident was first brought to our attention. With the official investigation complete, Insinna stands by the way he says things happened on that day.
In several e-mail conversations between 7 Eyewitness News reporter Jill Perkins and Insinna, he repeatedly denies Kadyn lost consciousness. On August 3, Insinna wrote, "The child did not lose consciousness” and “The child was alert and upright at all times."
He went on to write, "In viewing the incident video 10 times last night, there is not a second where the child appears laying back, limp, head back, arms hanging - the child instead was upright the whole time grasping the teacher with his arms and legs around her as she holds him."
"The gagging/coughing episode lasts a whole 10 seconds," wrote Insinna.
But that's not what caseworkers found, who, according to their report, say Kadyn "appears to have been choking for approximately a minute and a half."
The report goes on to refute Insinna's statement, saying Kadyn "awas turning blue/purple, completely stopped breathing, went limp and was foaming at the mouth/creating excessive saliva."
The report also added, "Kadyn's parents were also not informed of the severity of the incident, leaving them unable to seek medical attention...independently."
That finding conflicts with what Doodle Bugs! President and CEO said in e-mail, claiming Kadyn's parents were notified immediately and "the Center Director spoke with the child's mother immediately after the incident and provided an explanation of exactly what happened." But 911 was never called that day.
Levine said, "Anthony Insinna is a businessman. He's working to protect his business right now."
7 Eyewitness News went to the American Red Cross to find out the proper protocol when a young child chokes. Chuck Marra of the Western New York Chapter says to first assess the situation and then decide what technique to use.
"Before you do that though you'll ask someone around you to call 911. That's very important," said Marra.
Important, Marra says, because it's never certain how the choking incident will escalate.
He says if the child is coughing, let them cough because that can loosen the stuck object. There are then two techniques to use. The first is to turn the child around face down and use the heel of your hand to push hard five times on the shoulder blades.
If that doesn't work, Marra said, "The next step would be to get the child upright, take your fist and your hand, put it against the child's stomach just above the belly button and you'll do five upper abdominal thrusts."
Marra says only to use your fingers to clear a child's airway if you can see the object that's causing them to choke.
But Doodle Bugs! President and CEO Anthony Insinna was adamant the daycare center did nothing wrong. He called the family's claims "fabricated," even sending out an e-mail to parents after our original report aired on August 3 that read, in part, "A news story that aired on WKBW falsely reports that a child lost consciousness at our Cheektowaga center."
Kadyn's parents have hired an attorney and are pursuing a settlement with Doodle Bugs! for $100,000 that would be put into a trust for Kadyn when he turns 18.
"After my last interview, I saw a lot of feedback that made it seem like we're searching for a lawsuit out of this. The most important thing has always been fixing what happened, making sure that it doesn't happen again. Anything that is owed here is not owed to me and it's not to Madison - it's owed to my son," Levine said.
In response to our story, Doodle Bugs! President and CEO Anthony Insinna released the following statement:
"We stand by our previous statements.
"The safety of our students is of paramount importance, and was reflected by the immediate action taken by our employees when the child was observed gagging on a pretzel. The teacher cleared his mouth. The child was upright, was never unconscious and was not injured.
"The incident was reported to his parents.
"The investigation was conducted by an inexperienced county caseworker who did not respond to our request for further review of the matter. Expert video analysis and written statements by our employees and a physical therapist present in the classroom at the time of the incident clearly support our position.
"We are now taking steps to have the erroneous information removed from the report, which does not match with what actually happened."
Doodle Bugs! Children's Center in Cheektowaga was issued a violation by the Office of Children and Family services for "failing to follow its approved health care plan." A spokesman for OCFS says their office and Doodle Bugs! "subsequently agreed to a Corrective Action Plan that included additional emergency response training for all staff."
OCFS says Doodle Bugs! "cooperated with the plan and corrected the violation."
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