Parker Berry

Elephant in the Field Holistic Education and Childcare will not be opening its doors again. The Department for Children and Families is rescinding its state license.

The state shut down the Waterbury Center day care in February after the death of 3-year-old Parker Berry. Parker, who lived in Hyde Park, wandered away from his group at Elephant in the Field and fell into the partially frozen waters of Thatcher Brook, where he drowned.

Staff members at the day care did not notice Parker was gone until his family came to pick him up several hours later. A search ensued, and the boy was found with his face partially submerged in the brook.

Rescuers resuscitated the toddler after hours of CPR. He was rushed to Central Vermont Medical Center and then to the University of Vermont Medical Center, where he died a short time later.

The Department for Children and Families worked alongside Vermont State Police and the Washington County state’s attorney to discover exactly what went wrong.

The investigation found that neither the day care’s owner, Marlena Tucker-Fishman, nor her staff members were properly watching the children while outside, said Reeva Murphy, deputy commissioner of the department’s child development division.

Tucker-Fishman was caring for more children than her license would allow, and Murphy said the staff was caring for the children in an unauthorized location.

Not following the regulations proved to have fatal consequences, Murphy said.

“We just don’t have the confidence that she (Tucker-Fishman) will follow the regulations in the future,” she said.

In early August, the day care’s certification will be officially cut. Tucker-Fishman can try to appeal the decision.

Earlier this month, the state’s attorney announced he would not bring criminal charges against the paraeducator who was in charge of Parker. However, a criminal investigation into the day care center is still pending.

The communities of Waterbury and Hyde Park have come together in the months since the toddler’s death to support Parker’s family and the families of Elephant in the Field.

After learning of the toddler’s death, a vigil was held in Waterbury. A campaign raised more than $20,000 for his family, and libraries in Waterbury and Hyde Park have collected donations for books in Parker’s name.

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