La Mesa Police investigating the discovery of a toddler wandering a neighborhood early Monday discovered a day care provider had left a toddler in the care of her children but did not wake them up before leaving the home.
The child care facility is located in the 6100 block of Broadmoor Drive.
NBC 7 has learned that the same day care center was under investigation for "allegedly strangling a child" in 2016, according to records from the Department of Social Services.
But the investigation determined the allegations were "inconclusive" and noted that staff, children and witnesses did not see the child being choked.
Early Monday, the 3-year-old girl slipped out of the day care provider's home and was later found wandering near Harry Griffen Park. She was wearing clothes not pajamas when she was spotted in the street near Broadmoor Drive and Kathy Street at 6 a.m.
A passerby saw the child alone and called police.
According to police, the toddler appeared to be in good condition and was not crying when she was found.
Officers searched the area near the park for anyone looking for the child. As investigators knocked on doors in the area with the her photo, someone at the day care recognized the child.
Then, approximately four hours later, police confirmed the child had "walked away from a day care."
The child's mother picked up the little girl from police. She told investigators she had dropped off her daughter at a day care that morning.
“The owner of the day care center took custody of the child and left the residence thinking her two grown children would be taking care of the little girl,” Lt. Chad Bell said. “However they were still asleep.”
“There was an open door and the little girl was able to get out and got out to the street.”
"Thank God nothing happened, but I learned my lesson," said Gloria Smith, the day care provider. "I learned something very special. No matter what, always you have to be alert."
Police said Smith left the house to go pick up other kids she cares for but decided not to wake up her children to take care of the toddler before leaving.
"This morning, I didn't say anything because I didn't want to wake up nobody. It was a big mistake that I did. Like I said, from a mistake everybody will learn every day something," Smith said.
Although other details about the day care center were not released, Bell said the center was under investigation.
NBC 7 has uncovered this isn't the first child concern at Gloria Smith's family child care facility.
In the summer of 2016, shortly after the daycare was licensed, records from the Department of Social Services show a staff member was suspended while being investigated for allegedly "strangling a child."
Social services' investigation determined the allegations were "inconclusive" adding that there was no "preponderance of evidence to prove it."
Staff, children and witnesses told state investigators they didn't see the child get choked.
NBC 7 tried to ask Smith about the allegations. Someone came to the door of the day care but turned the lights off.
According to the investigation report the alleged assault happened under the same circumstances as Monday's incident.
Smith says she'd left her La Mesa home to pick-up other children she cares for while her adult children stayed in the home, keeping an eye on the kids.
Lt. Bell said Monday's incident had a great outcome to what could have been a very tragic story.
The mother was relieved and grateful when she picked her daughter up from the police station, Bell said.
“Without people out there looking out for our children, bad things can happen,” Bell said. “So we really appreciate that phone call.”
Harry Griffen Park is located approximately half a mile from that address. The neighborhood is north of Interstate 8, east of Amaya Drive and Water Street.
Anyone with information can call La Mesa Police at (619) 667-1400.
If you have concerns about this day care center or another, contact social services on their complaint hotline at 1-844-538-8766.