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State finds serious violations at Minnesota day care tied to infant death

BRAINERD, Minn. -- The license of a rural Brainerd day care, where an infant was found unresponsive and later died in November 2019, is now indefinitely suspended after the state found serious violations.

The licensing action issued Wednesday, Feb. 12, by the Minnesota Department of Human Services comes three months after the death of 9-month-old Zander Kenneth Miller of Crosby. Zander was found unresponsive in a crib Nov. 12, 2019, at Country Bumpkin Daycare, a home day care located in Crow Wing Township.

Crow Wing County sheriff’s deputies and first responders answered the call and assisted with lifesaving measures. The infant was pronounced dead at Essentia Health-St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Brainerd a short time later.

According to the order, Zander was placed down to sleep with a sippy cup and a blanket, which represented a failure to follow risk requirements for sudden unexpected infant death and a finding of maltreatment of a minor by neglect. When the infant was found unresponsive, the blanket was around his neck. Zander’s autopsy determined the cause of his death was asphyxia.

Beyond the findings related to Zander’s death, DHS also noted license holder Mindy Koering provided inaccurate information during the subsequent investigation, leading to a further violation. A phone call to Koering requesting comment was not returned.

“This indefinite suspension is based on serious licensing violations that include a maltreatment determination for which you were found responsible and you provided false and misleading information during the investigation of an infant death in your program,” the DHS order stated.

Crow Wing County determined Koering was routinely operating her day care beyond the licensed capacity by caring for 11 children, including on the day of Zander’s death. Before the suspension, the DHS licensed the home day care for a capacity of 10 children, with no more than eight children to be under school age. Of those eight children, a combined total of no more than three children were permitted to be infants and toddlers, and no more than two of those could be infants.

“As a result of the investigation it was determined … on November 12, 2019, you called a parent and requested they pick up their infant immediately,” the order stated. “This additional infant was not reported to law enforcement nor to Crow Wing County in subsequent interviews. You were licensed to have up to 10 children at any given time.”

A database of licensing information maintained by DHS shows one violation at the day care recorded in the past four years. In July 2018, the day care was cited for water that was too hot in areas accessible to children. Koering corrected the issue and provided documentation supporting that correction, the license details noted.

Koering has the right to appeal the suspension within 10 calendar days from when it went into effect. If there is an appeal, the case would be scheduled for a contested case hearing in front of an administrative law judge.

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