The Office of the State Child Advocate has released a report on the deaths of nine young children who died while in licensed and unlicensed day care settings. The report recommends a host of measures, including more funding so low-income families can access quality child care.
Between March 2016 and November 2017, six children died in illegally operated home-based child care centers, three died in licensed home-based centers. There were no reported deaths licensed facility-based day-care centers.
The report noted that the spike in deaths coincided with a halt to the state's Care 4 Kids program, which helps low-income families pay for quality health care. The program has since been reinstated.
The report found that the causes of death ranged from natural causes to intentional and unintentional injury, medication toxicity, and unsafe sleep environments. Of particular concern for the Office of the State Child advocate was the number of deaths in illegal day care.
“There's no regulation,” said Faith Vos Winkel, the state's Assistant Child Advocate. “There's no oversight, there's no expectation around having appropriate medical documents, understanding the child's medical needs, and the staff themselves have no CPR training. So, unregulated, illegal day care puts kids at risk.”
The report recommended that the state continues to find ways to give low-income families access to quality child care. It also advised the state Office of Early Childhood to strengthen its licensing framework, things like better oversight of facilities, and the development of better licensing standards.
“We want kids in the best child care possible,” said Vos Winkel, “and that comes with some regulation and oversight.”
The report also suggested better training for staff, including best practices for safe sleep environments for infants.
“Babies need to be in an environment where they are on their back, they are not overdressed in their crib, they are not sleeping with adults, they are not sleeping on a couch, because that’s where we see infants dying,” said Vos Winkel. “We have to redouble our efforts to get the message out there because it is a public health concern.”