By: Allan M. Siegel
In the 1960's the Commonwealth of Virginia ran a highly regulated daycare
system. Every person caring for an unrelated child was required to obtain
a license through Virginia's social services system. This rule was
relaxed in the 1970's as women in Virginia began entering the workforce
in great numbers.
Under the current rule, a person can watch up to five children in their
home without obtaining a license. There is presently no system in place to ensure that people follow the
five child limit. Social services cannot even begin an investigation until
a complaint has been filed or charges brought by police. In contract,
in a licensed daycare, every provider must pass a criminal background
check, pass two in-home inspections each year, CPR and safety training
must be updated every two years, and the providers are trained through
a comprehensive 120 page manual.
When you compare the fatality rates since 2004, you can see the benefit
of these regulations.
Since 2004, forty-three children died in unlicensed daycare facilities
compared to only seventeen in licensed facilities. The fatality review program manager for the medical examiner's office,
Virginia Powell, says that, "so much of infant child death is both
premature and preventable." The official review found that of the
forty-three deaths ten cases involved physical abuse, twenty-two were
sleep related incidents, three were accidents, and one case was the result
of natural causes. State officials believe the sleep related deaths to
be the most preventable.
Licensed facilities are trained to remove all loose bedding, pillows, and
stuffed animals. The child is placed on their back with only a light blanket,
and are physically checked every fifteen minutes or watched even more
frequently through a baby monitor. In 2010, Andy Ngo, age one, was improperly
swaddled and left alone for forty-five minutes on a queen sized bed surrounded
by pillows. He suffocated and could not be revived. Similarly, in 2012
Teagan Sample, who was just ten weeks old, was placed in a windowless
basement with ten other babies in cribs. She also suffocated and could
not be revived.
The common thread among these types of deaths is that the facilities are
breaking the only rule that applies to unlicensed providers, to only care
for five children at a time.
In the home where Any Ngo was being cared for the provider was caring for
ten children at the time of his death. In the home where Teagan Sample
was being cared for the police found twenty-three children in the home
with toddlers roaming the hallways aimlessly and babies sitting alone
on couches. The demand for daycare providers, however, is much greater
than the supply. Virginia currently has licensed providers who are able
to care for approximately 364,000 children, but the demand is nearly double
that amount. Many people are against regulation for these providers, who
are often stay-at-home moms or retired grandmothers. The motives of these
unlicensed providers are often altruistic. They choose to provide daycare
services because they love children and enjoy caring for them, but the
appalling death rate that results from of a lack of official training
should be motive enough to implement more regulations. Arlington County,
Fairfax County, and the City of Alexandria have all created their own
much tighter regulations to protect the children in their daycare facilities,
and have seen fatality rates fall.
It is time for the rest of Virginia to adopt these regulations statewide.
At CSCS, we have fought for children who have been injured at the hands
of negligent daycare providers. We understand how these cases must be
handled in order to receive just compensation for what may be life-long
injuries. If a child you love has been hurt by a negligent daycare provider, please
call us for a free evaluation of your case.