The Above and Beyond Childcare Center at the Highland Park Conservative Temple-Congregation Anshe Emeth is functioning normally with the full support of parents despite the arrest of a day-care employee in connection with the death of a two-month-old boy.
Tanya Choy, 36, of Martinsville was arrested Dec. 5 of for allegedly failing to properly care for the victim, who was in her care at the center prior to his death on Sept. 10.
“The arrest came on a Friday afternoon, and we were taken by surprise,” said the synagogue’s Rabbi Eliot Malomet.
“Parents are placing a lot of trust in our center, and we are confident that all members of our staff have the necessary training in all areas for emergencies, and we want people to understand the place does provide as safe and dependable care as is possible,” said Malomet. “We are a safe place that fills the needs of so many families. This is a tragic situation, but one that is not unique to our day-care center.”
He said parents of other youngsters at the center are continuing to send their children. However, the synagogue finds itself dealing with conflicting situations.
“No cause of death has been specified, and we find ourselves in the position of being acutely aware and feeling a sense of tragedy for the family and community and by extension anyone who has ever suffered the sudden death of any infant,” said Malomet. “We must also remember the presumption of innocence that is part of our justice system. These may be contradictory sentiments, but holding these contradictory sentiments may be the wise thing to do. “
According to a press release from the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office, Choy was charged with child endangerment. The child’s name was not given in the release, which said Highland Park police were called to the center on South Third Avenue at 2:19 p.m. on Sept. 10 and arrived to find the infant in distress.
Police rushed the baby to Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick, where he was pronounced dead at 2:45 p.m.
An autopsy could not establish the cause of death. But the Middlesex County Medical Examiner’s Office determined that a contributing factor to the death was that the child was left unattended.
However, a center committee member, who asked not to be named, said they could say with “100 percent certainty” that there were at least two people in the room at the time. The committee member was “baffled” by the charges.
The center serves infants age six weeks through preschool. According to the temple, the fully equipped center meets or exceeds state Division of Children and Family Services standards in all areas, including surpassing the teacher-to-child ratio by requiring at least two teachers be assigned in each classroom. All of its full-time staff are CPR and first aid certified.
It is state-licensed and nonsectarian, although the curriculum is “enriched with Jewish values.”
The center, which was closed after a fire destroyed part of the temple in 2006, reopened five years ago. During the reconstruction, it was moved from its former basement location to its own wing upstairs. It features a separate kitchen area, changing tables, separate bathrooms for children and adults, and its own separate entrance accessible only to parents and staff.
“We certainly want to reassure everyone we’ve gone above and beyond the required safety requirements,” said Malomet.