Jul 2


Buffalo daycare center has history of complaints

The recent arrest of the program's owner is but one of the school's problems. State inspectors have cited Mary’s Little Lambs for 20 violations since 2022.

Mary’s Little Lambs Child Care Center. Photo by I’Jaz Ja’ciel. 

This story was updated July 2t 12:53 pm.

An East Side daycare center whose owner was recently arrested and charged with shoving an employee has been cited for 20 violations in the past 2-1/2 years, a few referencing allegations of possible maltreatment or inadequate supervision of children.

State inspectors since 2022 were called to investigate complaints at Mary’s Little Lambs Child Care Center eight times prior to the June 11 incident, when owner Mary Goodwill was charged after allegations she used physical force against a teenage staff member. Another employee came under suspicion that day when a parent told police her 2-year-old old was hit by a staff member.

Three of those eight complaints were substantiated, according to the state Office of Children and Family Services. Two of them — one in November 2022 and another in September 2023 — resulted in violations that referenced abuse or maltreatment of a child, according to state records. No further details of the incidents were included in the records, which state the violations were corrected.

In addition, police report being called to the daycare center four previous times — all involving altercations between Goodwill and parents or Goodwill and a former employee.

Goodwill, 54, of the Town of Tonawanda, pleaded not guilty to charges of endangering the welfare of a child — referring to the 17-year-old employee — and second-degree harassment when arraigned in Buffalo City Court on June 12. 

Her case was adjourned until July 22.

Goodwill could not be reached for comment.

Her attorney, Peter Todoro, told Investigative Post that he has advised Goodwill to refrain from speaking with media until the case develops, but he said that she is fighting the charges against her.

“She denies any wrongdoing whatsoever,” Todoro said. ” This isn’t something that she’s going to take a plea on; let’s put it that way.”

Todoro said he is unfamiliar with Goodwill’s prior involvement with police and the state violations against the daycare.

State officials said Goodwill has voluntarily closed the center since the June 11 incident.

“It’s a shame, because it was a nice organization in the area that needs those types of organizations and I think she’s going to shut the doors,” Todoro said, adding that Goodwill hasn’t confirmed if the closure will be permanent, but she is considering that possibility.

The parents of one child who attended the daycare are in full support of the organization closing its doors for good.

“Her shutting it down, that was the best thing she could do because I don’t think parents will want their kids to go there anymore,” said Rayan Neil, who said his 2-year-old son Rayden complained about being hit by a teacher at the center on the day of the June 11 incident.

Mary’s Little Lambs, located at 377 Kensington Ave., near Burgard High School, opened in 2017. The facility is licensed to care for up to 93 children, from infants to preschoolers, records show. A 2024 state Office of Children and Family Services report says the daycare center was serving about 40 children as of March, with 12 staff members. 

The center received at least $100,000 in grants from the New York State Office of Children and Family Services for workforce stabilization and support. The daycare is also in line for another almost $100,000 for retention funding, according to state documents.

The day the incident occurred

According to a police report, someone from the daycare called police on June 11 to report a parent refusing to leave the child care center. 

Dante Jones says she was the parent in question. She told Investigative Post that when she dropped her and Neil’s son off at Mary’s Little Lambs, the 2-year-old told her that his teacher had hit him. The teacher, she said, denied it. Jones then approached Goodwill, who denied that the teacher struck her child, according to Jones.

“She was like, I worked with the teacher for many years. The teacher would never,” Jones said.

The conversation with Goodwill escalated and the owner asked her to leave and called the police on her, she said. 

“She said I was trespassing,” Jones said. “We were screaming back and forth, so she was saying I’m disrupting the classroom and I’m scaring the children.”

Dante Jones, left, and Rayan Neil with their child, Rayden. Photo by Garrett Looker.

The police report further stated that Goodwill got into an argument that turned physical with a 17-year -old staff member in front of a classroom of young children. 

The center owner was arrested at around 11 a.m. for allegedly shoving the employee and nearly hitting her in the face, according to the police report. 

Another employee, Marysia Marshall, had only worked at the daycare for two days when the incident happened. She said she quit the next day. 

“In all my years of daycare, this has never happened,” Marshall told Investigative Post.

Marshall said she was working during the time of the June 11 incident, but did not witness it. 

“I was not in that room, I was in the preschool room. This happened in the baby or toddler room,” she said.

Marshall said she was aware of a parent’s allegation of a 2-year-old being hit by a teacher, but had never seen the employee hit the child.

She also told Investigative Post that she had seen Goodwill and another employee discipline children at another time with a teacher’s pointer stick.

“Besides a couple of butt-spankings in my classroom, there was nothing in my room that was too bad,” she said. “My parents used to spank me when I was little, to be honest, but I would never spank other people’s children.”

Donate to support our nonprofit newsroom

So far, the state Office of Children and Family Services filed two violations against the daycare center in response to a complaint filed June 11. One violation references a requirement for daycare staff to notify a state registry of any suspicions that a child coming to school is abused or maltreated; the other references failure to notify the parent of a child about a serious incident. The result of another investigation undertaken that day in response to a second complaint is listed as pending.

A follow-up state investigation was conducted two days later, and the daycare was cited again, this time for a failure to cooperate with inspectors. The inspection was conducted outside of operating hours, according to state records.

The state Office of Children and Family Services continues to look into the June 11 incident.

The safety and well-being of all children in OCFS-licensed day care programs is our top priority. OCFS is actively investigating complaints registered with the agency,” a representative said in a statement to Investigative Post.

A representative from the Erie County Department of Social Services said in a statement that the department “is unable to make comment on, or provide background information, that may disclose information related to specific CPS (Erie County Child Protective Services) cases.”

Jones and Neil said they continue to work with the state Office of Children and Family Services as well as CPS and that they may consider taking legal action once the investigation is completed.

Past violations and police calls

In addition to the three violations that resulted from the June 11 altercation, the daycare has two other uncorrected violations from May — one referencing lack of documentation confirming compliance with state fire and safety regulations; the other, a lack of documentation showing inspection and approval of steam or hot water boilers, records show.

Additional inspections from the past 2-1/2 years reveal other concerns at the daycare, involving matters of unsupervised children, a need to notify parents about serious incidents, a requirement to call 911 for children requiring emergency medical care and parents when immediate health care is needed, and ensuring employees receive proper criminal history review and background clearances. The state found violations in all instances, which were subsequently corrected. 

Last month’s incident wasn’t the first time Goodwill was accused of getting in physical tussles at the child care center.

Get our newsletters delivered to your inbox
* indicates required

Newsletters *

Goodwill was twice charged with second-degree harassment, a violation — first in November 2022 and again in May 2023 — for two separate incidents of physically shoving a parent out of the daycare, according to police reports obtained by Investigative Post through a Freedom of Information request.

The disposition of those cases could not be immediately determined.

Goodwill has also claimed to be on the receiving end of being shoved at the child care center, according to the reports. In October 2023, she told police the mother of a child shoved her and that the mother, along with a male, threatened to shoot her after she got off work.

In February, an ex-employee at the daycare who had been terminated and escorted off of the premises returned to the daycare and allegedly punched Goodwill in the face and pulled her hair, according to a police report. The former employee allegedly assaulted another worker at the daycare as well, the police report said. 

Investigative Post

Get our newsletters delivered to your inbox * indicates required

Newsletters *