Separate Case Focuses on Care Home : State Revokes License of Baby-Sitter

Times Staff Writer

State regulators, in separate actions, have revoked the license of a Canyon Country baby-sitter and accused the operator of a Canoga Park care home of intimidating its mentally handicapped residents.

Gloria Barone, a 54-year-old baby-sitter, is accused by the California Department of Social Services and the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office of breaking the leg of one infant and breaking the wrist of another on separate occasions last year.

Barone was investigated but never charged in the 1985 death of an infant girl who had been in her care, and she remains under investigation in the case of a child who suffered a cut and bruises while at her home last year. The girl who died was the sister of one of the boys abused by Barone, authorities said.

In the second action, state social services officials have announced that they intend to revoke the license of Joyce Steele, a care-home owner accused of intimidating, humiliating and hitting residents, most of whom are teen-agers and suffer from mental handicaps.


Steele has contested the accusations and remains in business pending a hearing scheduled in June, according to Phillip Torres, a social services staff attorney assigned to the case.

Many of the incidents center on Steele’s handling of residents she said ate too much while at school, Torres said.

Steele allegedly challenged a resident to eat a whole loaf of bread and when the man complied, he became ill and vomited, according to a social services report. She also forced a resident to attend school in a T-shirt that stated: “I’m not here to learn, I’m here to eat,” the report said.

Torres said Steele and her son, Mark, hit several residents. None of the incidents resulted in injuries requiring medical attention, he said.


In the case involving the baby-sitter, the Department of Social Services initially suspended Barone’s license pending a hearing, but it was automatically revoked when Barone failed to contest the accusations, according to Debra L. Ashbrook, a department lawyer who handled the case. Ashbrook said Barone, a licensed baby-sitter for 15 years, will not be allowed to apply for a new permit until 1991.

Barone was arraigned Jan. 24 and released after posting $7,500 bail. She has pleaded not guilty to two counts of child abuse and one count of corporal injury to a child. A pretrial conference is scheduled today in Los Angeles Superior Court.

Prosecutors allege that Barone broke the right wrist of 3-month-old Jonathan Chong while baby-sitting for the child Dec. 28. Chong died Feb. 15 of an unrelated illness, said his father, Taek Y. Chong.

Barone is also accused of breaking the leg of Michael Donato, who was 2 months old when the incident occurred in May. The boy suffered additional injuries, including bruises to his hands, chest, back and penis, when Barone baby-sat him July 11, prosecutors allege.

Barone refused to comment on the case.

According to a county Sheriff’s Department report, Barone acknowledged during a polygraph test that she may have accidentally injured the boys. But her attorney, Robert R. Keimach, denied that his client abused them.

In 1985, Barone was investigated after Jennifer Donato, Michael Donato’s sister, died of head injuries, possibly caused when the infant fell from a table while in the care of her parents, Anthony and Charlotte Donato of Canyon Country, authorities said. No charges were filed in the case because coroner’s investigators determined that the girl died as a result of an accidental fall, according to the sheriff’s report.

But it is also stated in the report that doctors who examined Jennifer Donato believed that her death was caused by severe shaking.


Robert D. Coppola Jr., the parents’ attorney, said Michael Donato, now 1, and his 7-year-old sister, Danielle, have been in protective custody since shortly after Michael was injured in July. Coppola, who is representing the Donatos in an ongoing custody case, refused to discuss details of the matter. An attorney from the county counsel’s office, which is representing the county in the custody case, also refused to comment.

Four years ago, Danielle Donato spent four months in protective custody after Jennifer’s death, which sheriff’s investigators said occurred under “suspicious child-abuse circumstances,” according to the sheriff’s report.