Stepping Stones Child Care CEO suspended, state investigating complaints

May 19, 2017 06:42 PM

The founder and CEO of Stepping Stones Learning Center is under suspension. Mariellen Cupini's lawyer says Cupini was suspended recently by the child care center's Board of Directors.

Stepping Stones does traditional day care but it also cares for people up to 21 years old who have special needs. Its website says it serves 500 families.

News10NBC learned that not only is Cupini suspended, New York State has hit Stepping Stones with four violations inspections in the past three and a half months.

Are you a parent with a child at Stepping Stone? Email Berkeley Brean at 

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A Little History

In 1994, Mariellen Cupini started Stepping Stones with two teachers and nine children. Now it's in the former Chase Pitkin building in Irondequoit.

On Thursday, I reached Cupini on the phone. She said she couldn't say anything and told me to call her lawyer. In a statement her lawyer wrote: "Ms. Cupini vehemently denies any wrongdoing and is looking forward to the clearing of her name." (See the full statement at the bottom of the story.)

What is the "wrong doing?"

Cupini's lawyer won't say what the "wrong doing" is because of a possible lawsuit. But we checked the website of the New York State Office of Children and Family Services. That's where we found 11 violation inspections in the past 12 months. Most recently on May 5th the state found five violations.

Here's one.

New York State regulations say daycares "must report any suspected incidents of child abuse or maltreatment."

The state's ruling?

"Not corrected."

On May 9th, the state listed the rule that says daycares must "immediately notify the parent and (state) Office upon learning of the death, serious incident, serious injury, serious condition, communicable illness, or transportation to a hospital" when the child was at the daycare.

The state ruling again?

"Not corrected."

The Office of Children and Family Services emailed this statement this evening: "We are investigating complaints about this program and are working with the licensee. The agency takes all possible steps to make sure children are safe and works with providers to help them come into compliance and stay there."

Click here to access a complete list of violations inspections of Stepping Stones Learning Centers. Enter the zip code 14617 and type Stepping Stones in the "Name" category. Click "Find Day Care." Then click the"'i" icon.

I called the director of the Stepping Stones on Thursday and again Friday. I went to her office at the child care center Friday and she refused to meet with me. 

Brean: If a parent finds that their child is in a daycare with violations, what should they do? 

Barbara-Ann Mattle, CEO Child Care Council: As I said, they need to check and see what those violations are.

Barbara-Ann Mattle runs the Child Care Council in Rochester. She agreed to talk to me in general terms about day cares and violations.

Barbara-Ann Mattle, CEO Child Care Council: The state website will tell you which regulation has been violated but regulations are very broad based. They can be misleading in terms of what the actual incident has been.

I reached out to the Stepping Stones Board of Directors. At least two people said they resigned at the beginning of the year and didn't know about the CEO Cupini's suspension. We are waiting for return phones calls from several other listed board members. 

The Statement from Mariellen Cupini's Attorney:

Given the nature of the services provided to the public by Stepping Stones, as well as Ms. Cupini's position within the organization, we understand the media attention this matter has garnered.  Unfortunately, at this time we have no comment as this matter is ongoing and may potentially lead to litigation.  Ms. Cupini vehemently denies any wrongdoing and is looking forward to the clearing of her name.  The work done by Stepping Stones and its staff is invaluable to the community of Rochester and Ms. Cupini is regretful for any delays in the delivery of those services this matter has caused.

Langston D. McFadden, Esq.

Pullano & Farrow, Attorneys for Mariellen Cupini


Berkeley Brean

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