Zuri Rose Camara has been through a lot. Unfortunately, we don’t know exactly what since, at just 6 months old, she can’t tell anyone. Sadly, the adult who was charged with caring for her when she was injured in November isn’t being forthcoming either.
Zuri’s mom, Anari Ormond dropped her daughters off at J&A Nursery in Newark, New Jersey in mid-November just like she does every day before work. But everything changed when she received a mid-day text from the owner asking her to call immediately. It’s a message that would make any parent’s stomach lurch.
Ormond called immediately and later told PEOPLE that she was told Zuri had been left “unattended around a 2-year-old boy.”
“She said in that time period of being unattended the boy ‘bit Zuri 3 times in the stomach,’” Ormond said.
Seconds after hanging up the phone, the mom was off to check on her injured daughter.
After a 17-minute drive that likely felt like an eternity, Ormond – a preschool teacher and recent Howard University graduate – was stopped at the door and given a very different account of events.
“[The owner] began a story saying she went upstairs to get Neosporin and fell down the steps while holding my daughter and she was severely bruised,” the frustrated mother reported.
After pushing past the owner, she went to find her child. She was heartbroken to see little Zuri’s whole face “red, bruised, swollen and scratched.” The infant also had scratches “on her right foot and hand.”
“I was shocked and heartbroken,” Ormond told PEOPLE. “She was just sitting there. She wasn’t laughing or smiling.”
The pair quickly got out of the daycare and Ormond rushed her daughter to St. Barnabas Hospital to get checked out.
“We went straight to the hospital. They did a CT scan of her head immediately just to make sure there was no head trauma. There was no internal bleeding,” she said.
Doctors told her that Zuri had suffered a “mild concussion” and she was prescribed antibiotics, presumably to prevent the infection of her other injuries.
Ormond also said that the doctor told her that while nothing showed up on the X-ray of the child’s leg, her bones are so tiny that fractures might not be visible.
“I felt so weak knowing that my baby is so helpless and couldn’t defend herself nor tell me what even happened. I’ve been feeling so defeated. I thought I was doing the best thing for her.”
Undoubtedly feeling both devastation and rage, Ormond went straight from the hospital to the police station to report the incident. After all, she hadn’t received a reasonable explanation of what happened and other children were still being cared for at the nursery.
Then, she took to social media, posting the photos of her little girl on Instagram. Sadly, that appeared to be far more effective in getting justice for Zuri.
The New Jersey Department of Children and Families released a statement to ABC7NY, saying:
“Our records do not show an operating license or registration for J&A Nursery in Newark. Please note that Family Child Care Homes are permitted to operate in New Jersey, without a license, if they are caring for five or fewer unrelated children. However, if programs wish to receive federal subsidies they’re required to voluntarily register with DCF and comply with applicable regulations. Providing care for more than five unrelated children requires a childcare center license, and operating without such a license may subject the operator to prosecution.”
Just a day later, Ormond posted a screencap of a message noting that it had been closed and the owner was due to appear in court.
CBS New York reported on November 21 that officials in Newark shut down the unlicensed nursery the previous week after seven code violations were found.
Municipal court records show the operator, Lisa Muhammad, received citations for nuisances, failure to obtain a certificate of occupancy, failure to obtain a license, and failure to provide adequate doors for an exit, according to NJ.com. It appears Muhammad was caring for more than 5 infants if she was required to have a license. Her “nursery” was simply a set of cribs and a play area in the basement of her home.
Muhammad was due to be arraigned in municipal court but the matter was adjourned until December 19 after she requested a lawyer.
She is still being investigated by the local prosecutor’s office for Zuri’s incident and Ormond is pushing for criminal charges to be filed.
If you suspect child abuse, you can always make a toll-free and confidential call the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-Child or 1-800-422-4453, or go to http://www.childhelp.org. The hotline is available in more than 170 languages.
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