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Investigation into infant’s death at unlicensed day care in Army housing enters fifth month

Seven-month-old Abigail Lobisch died Feb. 24, 2019, at an unlicensed day care on a military housing complex in Hawaii.

COURTESY OF ANNA LOBISCH

By WYATT OLSON | STARS AND STRIPES Published: July 2, 2019

FORT SHAFTER, Hawaii — More than four months have passed since 7-month-old Abigail Lobisch died at an unlicensed day care in a Hawaii military housing complex, but authorities have yet to conclude investigations into the death.

The Honolulu Medical Examiner’s Office has not released the official manner and cause of Abigail’s death on Feb. 24 while she was at the home day care at the Army-managed Aliamanu Military Reservation in Honolulu.

The Honolulu Police Department’s “unattended-death” investigation also remains open.

The day care operator, whose husband was in the Navy, no longer lives in Aliamanu, according to divorce proceedings recently filed in Hawaii First Circuit Family Court.

Meanwhile, in the wake of the child’s death, U.S. Army Hawaii commenced an investigation into how home-based child care was being administered on its installations, the prevalence of unauthorized day care and the adequacy of policies dealing with unlicensed providers.

That report is completed but “not releasable at this time,” said Dennis Drake, a spokesman for Army Garrison Hawaii.

Military police had shut down the unlicensed day care several times in the months preceding Abigail’s death, but it had quickly resumed operation each time.

Neighbors of the day care excoriated Army officials during a town hall meeting at Fort Shafter several days after the infant death.

“If you all knew for the span of over a year now that this had been going on at this home, why did you let it go on for this long?” Katie Camario, who lived next door to the day care, asked the Army officials.

Others at the town hall questioned what the Army was doing to shorten wait times for licensed day care.

The U.S. military’s woeful lack of adequate and competent child care was the subject of a hearing last month by the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel, during which officials from the Army, Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy testified.

“Child care is a huge problem on every one of our bases,” said Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., the subcommittee chair, noting that she’d visited numerous bases of the various services during a five-day junket in April.

“We were at Fort Bragg and meeting with the spouses, and that was a serious complaint, that they had to wait over a year in some cases,” Speier said.

Lt. Gen. Thomas Seamands, the Army’s deputy chief of staff for personnel, testified that the wait time for child care in Hawaii was more than 100 days. Speier upbraided Seamands for his lack of “granular” data about child care shortcomings across the service.

Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Michael Rocco, deputy commandant for manpower and Reserve affairs, said parents are waiting more than six months for child care slots for bases in Hawaii, Southern California and Virginia.

The Navy has 8,000 people on a child care waiting list, with about 2,000 languishing for more than a half-year, said Vice Adm. Robert Burke, chief of Navy personnel.

Military families make do with so-called “black market” child care — unlicensed providers who try to stay under the radar of military commands.

Anna Lobisch, Abigail’s mother, told a local Hawaii TV station in March that she did not know the day care she was using was unlicensed.

Lobisch declined an interview request by Stars and Stripes, saying that while the medical examiner’s case is pending she was referring media queries to JusticeforAbi, the Facebook page she set up after her daughter’s death.

“We memorialize her, share photos, stories and any updates regarding her case with all who choose to follow,” she said of the website. “To us, we really just want answers — and we would not want this to happen to any other parent or child. Things need to change; laws need to be put in place.”

olson.wyatt@stripes.com
Twitter: @WyattWOlson

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