Goshen News, Goshen, IN

State News

March 16, 2014

Rising deaths at Indiana day cares raise alarm

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana lawmakers' efforts to increase regulation of some home day cares might not do anything to stem a rising tide of deaths in child care facilities, critics say.

Lawmakers last week approved legislation that strengthens safety and reporting requirements at day cares that accept taxpayer-funded vouchers.

But Indiana will remain one of 11 states that exempts home day cares from being licensed if they take in five or fewer children, The Indianapolis Star reported (http://indy.st/1fS03b7 ).

The number of day care deaths jumped from one in 2011 to nine in 2012 and 11 last year. Of the 31 reported deaths, 21 occurred at unlicensed or illegal day cares, The Star reported.

Michelle McCready, senior policy adviser at Child Care Aware of America, said that statistic isn't surprising.

"We see this trend way too often," McCready said. "It seems obvious this is the nature of the unlicensing. It is not too great, and no one is inspecting these facilities, the operators are not being trained in safe sleep. Operators know if they add an extra child the state is not going to check in and see if they are following the laws."

Sixteen of Indiana's 31 known day care deaths occurred at illegally operating homes. One this year was in a home that in 2006 had twice been the subject of complaints that the operator, Amy Auld, was taking in too many children, according to the Bureau of Child Care.

Inspectors cited Auld for having more than five unrelated children. A subsequent visit found she was operating legally, so inspectors weren't required to return to her home.

After a 3-month-old died at Auld's unlicensed home on Feb. 26, attendance records at the house showed 13 children were present. Though the child's death wasn't ruled suspicious, the Bureau of Child Care sent Auld a cease-and-desist letter last week after an inspector found last week found 11 children present, including four under age 2 in a back room with the door closed and four 3- and 4-year-olds sleeping in an upstairs loft.

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