A Sterling family home day-care operator who left nine children alone for an hour April 28 has been arrested and could face a maximum of five years imprisonment on each of two felonies.
AUTHORITIES HAVE CHARGED Liza Proctor Rickard, 37, with abuse and neglect of children, and cruelty and injuries to children. A Loudoun County Magistrate released Rickard on a $3,000 personal recognizance bond last Thursday. During her arraignment Tuesday, Juvenile Domestic Court Judge Avelina Jacob set a preliminary hearing for July 20.
A Social Services inspector, a Child Protective Services social worker and deputy sheriffs found the children in cribs in a darkened room the Friday before. The Virginia Department of Social Services, which licenses day cares, asked Rickard to voluntarily surrender her license, and she complied.
Her husband Eric Rickard, in an interview, said his wife was sorry. She had been "panicked" that their son was going to be stranded at his private school in Reston. He said the children were sleeping, and she knew they would not be up for an hour. "She thought she could make a mad dash to the school," he said in an interview after the incident.
She made the 10- to 15-minute drive. Her dogs leaned against the car door locks when she went inside the school, and she had to call a locksmith, Mr. Rickard said.
MEANWHILE, THE INSPECTOR and social worker went to the family home day care on an unrelated complaint. They knocked on the door and went to the back of the home when there was no response. Hearing a child cry, they called the Sheriff's Office. Rickard came home when they were about to force their way into the house.
Jim Parcelli, licensing administrator for the Fairfax area office of the Virginia Department of Social Services, said Rickard would have been in violation of not having enough assistants to handle nine children, even if she had not abandoned them.
Parcelli said violations are common among family home day care and day-care centers. A review of the family home day care and day-care centers in the Sterling showed violations ranging from providers failing to label a baby bottle to missing a child's insurance information.
"It would be hard for someone, especially a day-care center, not to have violations," he said. Family home day-care operations, such as Rickard's, have to meet 200 standards, he said. Day-care centers, such as Chesterbrook Academy, have to meet 600 standards. Parcelli said the state is required to conduct at least two inspections a year, and make additional visits when complaints are lodged. Sanctions of $500 are imposed only in serious cases. Otherwise, the day-care providers have the opportunity to bring their businesses up to code.
RICKARD RECEIVED a conditional license on Dec. 4, 2003. She renewed it May 24, 2004.
She encountered violations similar to those in the review of other family home and day-care centers.
A complaint was made in October 2004. As the primary caregiver, she was to be at the day care 51 percent of the time. She was there only 33 percent of the time, with the two assistants handling the rest of the care. "After that, she complied [until Thursday] as far as we know," he said last week.
The second complaint was made Feb. 18 of this year. Parcelli said she was cited for giving Tylenol to a child without: having written authorization, recording the amount given, writing the time it was given, and acknowledging who gave it. During that visit, inspectors also found that there were not enough caregivers to meet the ratio. There were eight children in the home, representing 24 points, based on a points system the state uses to determine children-to-adult ratios. In that case, Rickard and one assistant were on hand. The third assistant arrived before the inspectors left. The inspectors also found an outlet with a cover missing and wires exposed in the "play nap room."
He said the state would not impose sanctions against Rickard, because she voluntarily surrendered her license, he said.