Letter: Stepping Stones child care 'ends relationship' with founder and CEO

May 23, 2017 06:34 PM

The founder and CEO of a child care center that serves 500 families in the Rochester area is out. News10NBC obtained a copy of a letter written to the staff of Stepping Stones Learning Center in Irondequoit. The letter was written by the chair of the center's Board of Directors, Greg George.

In the letter, he writes, "We have made the difficult decision to end our relationship with Stepping Stones President/CEO Mariellen Cupini."

Stepping Stones serves children with special needs, including autism. Its website says it started in 1994 and now serves 500 families.

Response from the CEO

News10NBC broke the story of issues at Stepping Stones on Friday. We reported that Ms. Cupini was suspended by the Board of Directors. I reached Ms. Cupini on her cell phone and she told me, "I'm unable to talk because of attorneys being involved. I'm not able to say anything."

Ms. Cupini's attorney sent me a statement which read: "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."

In the letter to employees, Mr. George said Stepping Stones Learning Center has partnered with CDS Life Transitions to provide "quality assurance, financial integrity and leadership."

State Regulations Violations

We also learned that Stepping Stones Learning Center was inspected by the New York State Office of Children and Family Services 17 times in the past 12 months. Eleven of those 17 inspections came back as "violations found." In fact, the state found violations in its last four inspections; January 31, April 28, May 5 and May 9.

Here is an example of one of the violations cited by the Office of Children and Family Services on May 5: New York State regulations say day cares "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 day cares 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 day care.

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."

Statement from Cupini's attorney

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Ms. Cupini is deeply saddened to have learned of Stepping Stones’ decision to terminate her relationship with the organization.  While she respects the authority of the Board of Directors to make such decisions, she deeply and profoundly regrets that the Board has come to this particular decision.  For more than 20 years Ms. Cupini has zealously served the needs of the individuals receiving Stepping Stones’ services and she will miss her day-to-day interactions with that community and the extremely capable staff she had the pleasure of working with and leading during her time at Stepping Stones.  At this point in time, she has no further comment on the Board’s decision but stands by her position that she has engaged in no wrongdoing.  

Langston D. McFadden, Esq.

Pullano & Farrow, Attorneys for Mariellen Cupini

Letter on decision from Stepping Stones


Berkeley Brean

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