[Updated] The state Department of Social Services and Attorney General Xavier Becerra are seeking an injunction that would prevent Altadena’s Summerkids camp – where 6-year-old Roxie Forbes drowned last June 28 – from reopening this summer.
In a complaint filed in state Superior Court in Los Angeles on Feb. 14, Becerra, on behalf of Kim Johnson, director of the state’s Department of Social Services, says Summerkids was not licensed to operate a child day-care facility and “remains unlicensed to this day.”
Still, the complaint says, the camp plans to resume its child day-care programs this summer “despite being notified by the Department of Social Services that doing so would be unlawful.’’
“In order to protect the health and safety of the children of the State of California, Director Johnson brings this action to enjoin Summerkids from continuing to operate an unlicensed child daycare facility, pursuant to Health and Safety Code Section 1596.80,’’ the complaint says.
In a brief statement attributed to Summerkids, officials with the camp said they had received the lawsuit and were reviewing it.
“We have been working with the authorities to resolve this matter since it was first brought to our attention,” the statement reads.
The complaint lists Johnson as the plaintiff and Summerkids Inc. and its director, Cara DiMassa (along with 20 unnamed “Does”) as defendants. It was signed by Becerra as well as by Jennifer M. Kim, supervising deputy attorney general, and Chara L. Crane, the deputy attorney general. They are listed as attorneys for Johnson.
The complaints seeks, significantly, “Preliminary and permanent injunctive relief restraining (Summerkids) … from operating an unlicensed child daycare facility’’ as well as “civil penalties in the amount (of) $200 per day for each day that the defendants operate an unlicensed child daycare facility in California and continuing each day thereafter until defendants cease illegal operations.’’
Roxie Forbes, identified in the complaint only as “six-year-old R.F.,” drowned last June 28. Her parents, Doug Forbes and Elena Matyas, blame their daughter’s death on the unlicensed camp, negligent counselors and, just as significantly, on almost non-existent state standards to regulate kids’ camps.
According to a separate lawsuit filed by Roxie’s parents, Roxie entered the camp pool June 28 at about 9:25 a.m., accompanied by a counselor.
About ten to fifteen minutes later, another counselor who was working with other campers about thirty to forty-five feet outside the gate of the swimming pool was the first person to finally notice Roxie floating face down in the pool, the suit says.
Doug Forbes and his wife have begun an organization called the “Meow Meow Foundation,” named after Roxie’s favorite stuffed animal, aimed at getting the state to better regulate kids camps. They have also joined with state Sen. Anthony Portantino, who has introduced Senate Bill 955 – “the Roxie Rules Act,” which seeks to address what Portantino acknowledged is “a deficiency in camp licensing, inspection, and oversight.’’
“This is such a weighty development,’’ Forbes and Matyas said in an email to Pasadena Now on Tuesday, regarding the complaint that seeks the injunction against Summerkids.
“It begins to forge a whole new standard of camp accountability and government oversight. Coming from Attorney General Becerra’s office, such a high-profile legal action signals that, since Roxie died eight months ago, our foundation’s relentless efforts are finally moving the needle.
“Children attending California camps deserve nothing less than the enforcement of comprehensive health and safety measures for which we have been tirelessly advocating. Kudos to the AG and to the Department of Social Services for taking this critical step.’’
Summerkids has operated a child day-care facility in Altadena “on an expansive piece of land located at the edge of the Angeles National Forest,” the complaint says.
As detailed in a flier, attached as addendum to the complaint, Summerkids has been planning to reopen on June 10.
A second addendum to the complaint is a letter, dated Jan. 13, from the Department of Social Services to DiMassa, the Summerkids director. It says, in part, “You are hereby notified that the facility at the above location is operating without a license in violation of California Health and Safety Code Sections 1508, 1568,03, 156..1, or 1596.80. … Your continued operation without a license could result in civil and/or criminal action being taken against you.”
Roxie’s parents are suing Summerkids in a separate legal proceeding.