Well, apparently this is a week for follow-ups. In my February 10 blog, I talked about Rep. Scott Fitzpatrick’s, R-Shell Knob, proposed bill to do away with licensing requirements for rural child daycare providers. Fitzpatrick’s sponsorship of the initiative stems from his belief that State licensure requirements governing adult-to-child ratios and enrollment caps pose an undue hardship on financially-strapped rural daycare providers, including the one that his sister attended as a child. In defending his position, Fitzpatrick acknowledged the higher rate of fatalities in Missouri’s unlicensed home daycare facilities but noted that none of these deaths had happened in his district. He added that his constituents tell him that unlicensed facilities can provide just as decent care as licensed facilities.
The Tragic Death of Izzy Moore
Now only two days later comes the tragic news of 7-month old Izabella Moore who died in an unlicensed Perry County daycare after being placed on her stomach for a nap. It turns out that her daycare provider, Shawna Huber, was watching 14 children on the day of “Izzy’s” death, five of whom were related to her, nine who were not. State law mandates providers watching more than four unrelated children to have a license and to submit to routine safety inspections. Furthermore, licensure safety provisions direct caretakers to place babies on their back when sleeping to avoid the potential for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
The Perry County coroner and a regional pathologist have ruled Izzy’s cause of death as SIDS. Shawna Huber was charged for operating a childcare facility without a license and fined $100. Izzy’s parents, Jeremy and Adrian Moore, have had a difficult time getting answers about the circumstances surrounding Izzy’s death. They fought to get the Perry County Sheriff’s Department and prosecutor to release records for the past ten months, finally getting them only last week through a court order.
Unacceptable Excuses, Fantasy Thinking
So back to the subject at hand: Rep. Fitzpatrick’s burning desire to do away with licensing requirements for rural providers. He acknowledges the higher rate of deaths that occur in unlicensed homes, but just to get some perspective, let’s put a number on exactly how much higher. Ninety percent—90%!—of the childcare deaths that occurred in Missouri between 2007-2011 took place in unlicensed facilities. If that percentage were 50%…or even 60%–maybe it would be easier to buy into Rep. Fitzpatrick’s argument that unlicensed facilities can provide just as decent care as licensed facilities. I don’t doubt the truth in that statement. Sure, we all know daycare providers who can provide decent care even if they’re not licensed, but I’m dealing with hard-core figures here—90%–not anecdotes about the kind of daycare that Rep. Fitzpatrick’s sister attended.
I understand that times are incredibly tough in this economic environment, especially in rural Missouri where good-paying jobs are relatively scarce. I know too well the personal hardships that rural Missourians face because I’ve represented a number of them in personal injury and wrongful death suits…which brings me to my point. There is sad truth to the old adage, “Desperate times call for desperate measures.” I’m talking 14 children here: how could anyone in their right mind honestly believe that it is possible to maintain the vigilant supervision required for watching that many children and babies all at one time?
If Rep. Fitzpatrick does not believe this sort of tragedy could occur in Barry County, he is engaging in fantasy thinking. I’ve heard the same kind of hand-wringing logic from teenagers on the stand: “I knew that drinking and driving (or texting and driving) could cause accidents, even injuries and death, but I thought those kinds of bad things only happened to other people, not me.” People will cut corners, break rules, delude themselves that what they are doing is not all that bad in the absence of regulations governing how they can run their business and make a buck at the end of the day. There is a tendency on the part of all of us to rationalize our excesses and missteps with empty promises that we’ll change our ways tomorrow… as soon as things get better. Sad truth about us human beings is that we honestly need structure, especially when times are uncertain.
A Totally Preventable Death
Financial hardship and poverty should never be parleyed as excuses when a child’s well being is at stake. Could Izzy’s death have happened in a licensed facility? Of course it could, but statistics tell us that it had a far greater chance—a 90% greater chance—of happening in an unlicensed setting. Licensure creates the best mechanism we have for ensuring—to the greatest extent possible—the safety and well being of our children in nurturing, protective environments where they can grow and thrive.
My heart goes out to the parents of Izzy Moore. I am especially sorry because her death was totally preventable. If you or a loved one has been hurt because of the negligence of another, please call me. You’ll find a compassionate advocate who will aggressively fight to make sure that you get the justice that you and/or your loved one deserve. Contact me at: at 314-409-7060.