Fla. Mom Discovers 2-Year-Old Daughter Locked Inside Daycare After Employees Leave

"I started knocking. I banged on every window. I couldn't see anything because everything was dark," said mom Stephanie Martinez

daycare center
Photo: Getty

A Florida mother is filing a lawsuit against a daycare company after employees left her 2-year-old daughter alone inside one of their facilities before she was able to arrive for pick-up.

Stephanie Martinez told ABC station WPLG that she arrived at Plantation KinderCare daycare center on Tuesday night and found her daughter, Anastasia Brathwaite, locked inside with the lights off. The employees had left for the day, Martinez said, and she had no way to get Anastasia out.

"I started knocking. I banged on every window. I couldn't see anything because everything was dark," Martinez recalled to the outlet. "And finally, I heard her and she popped on the little window, on the little door, and I lost it."

Plantation firefighters arrived soon after and were able to pry open the doors of the facility to free Anastasia. According to a report by the Plantation Police Department cited by WPLG, two of Plantation KinderCare's employees left the daycare center at 6:20 p.m., about eight minutes before Martinez arrived.

"She's super traumatized," Martinez told NBC station WTVJ about the incident. "It's not fair."

The Plantation Police Department and a lawyer representing Martinez did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.

In a statement sent to PEOPLE, KinderCare Learning Companies, Inc., which operates dozens of facilities around the country out of its headquarters in Oregon, said it would retrain staff on proper supervision protocol in wake of the incident and are "thankful" Anastasia was found safe.

"At KinderCare, nothing is more important to us than the safety of the children in our care. While we're thankful the child was quickly found and was safe, this incident should not have happened," the company said.

"We take all concerns about children's safety seriously and follow a specific protocol anytime an issue is raised," they added, in part. "Part of that protocol includes notifying our agency partners, like state licensing and Child Protective Services, as we did in this case. We also placed the staff members involved on administrative leave while we, and our agency partners, look into the concern further."

Martinez's attorney, Mark DiCowden, told WPLG that he felt the company only offered a "bad excuse" in response to the incident.

"We are outraged that KinderCare endangered the life of a child by not observing any safety protocols that led to a two-year-old being abandoned and locked inside a darkened facility," DiCowden said in a statement given to the news station. "Making the whole situation worse was that Ms. Martinez was forced in horror to witness her child in peril and it was not until law enforcement and the fire department were called that the toddler was then extricated through extreme measures."

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"The entire event could've been avoided if KinderCare did not abandon their responsibilities and the toddler. What adds insult to injury is that nobody at KinderCare bothered to answer the phone in this emergency situation, they failed to apologize for their bad behavior and they failed to provide anything but a bad excuse for what happened," he continued.

DiCowden, who is based in Florida, said he and Martinez are filing a lawsuit to "ensure that nothing like this happens to another child."

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