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From Heartbreak to Action: Making Virginia Child Care Safer

The importance of high-quality, affordable child care affects everyone. Child Care Aware® of America is pleased to share with you our fourth story in Faces of Child Care, an eight-week series of stories from individuals of various walks of life who are affected by child care.

Read Elly’s story to learn more about our series and how you can help Child Care Aware® of America ensure that every family in America has access to high-quality, affordable child care.

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Meet every day people who are transforming the child care system in inspiring ways in Child Care Aware of America’s new 8- week series, Faces of Child Care.

Elly Lafkin (center) with Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe and state delegate Eileen Filler-Corn after the signing of Camden’s Law.

Guest blog post by Elly Lafkin, Parent and Family Advocate

It was an ordinary day like any other when my husband received a call from our child care provider that our baby daughter Camden had somehow choked and was taken to a nearby hospital. We rushed to the emergency room with our hearts in our hands, hoping for the best, only to be told our little girl had died of Sudden Unexpected Infant Death (SUID).

As more details about our case emerged from Child Protective Services and the sheriff, we learned that our provider was not exactly the person we thought she was. We discovered that our provider had five alias names and even prior felony convictions—none of which showed up on the background check. The sheriff found drugs in her home at the time of Cami’s death; drugs that were in places accessible to children. Suddenly our provider, who had been part of our family, was a total stranger to us.

As a parent, you do everything you can to make sure your child is in the safest, healthiest environment possible. If your child can’t be with you in your own home, you want her in a place that is just as safe. Just as loving. We thought we had done everything right. We checked our provider’s references, visited her center, and performed a background check. She came out clean. So where did we go wrong?

We began researching child care laws and realized it wasn’t just the provider who had failed us, it was the system. So we partnered with Child Care Aware® of America to share our story at the national level with political leaders. Using Child Care Aware® of America’s resources and knowledge, we want our heartbreak to be a warning for other families so they never have to know the pain we went through after losing our baby girl.

On November 19, 2014, President Obama signed the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) Act of 2014 into law which drastically updates health and safety laws for child care providers.

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Parent advocates with President Obama after the signing of the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG).

We continue to advocate at the state level with Child Care Aware® of Virginia to strengthen child care laws. Camden’s Law was signed by Governor McAuliffe in 2015, requiring that all licensed and registered child care providers in Virginia have fingerprint background checks. Our final bill was not what we started with, but it is the first update to Virginia’s child care laws in 25 years and it is one step closer to our goal—making child care in Virginia safer for children.

Elly is making a difference in the lives of children and families every day. We need more advocates like Elly who are making the child care system a safer place. When you support Child Care Aware® of America, it’s an investment in America’s future. Your donation supports parent and family advocates like Elly, and our public policy and advocacy efforts toward safe, healthy child care environments.

Every day Elly invests in children and families. Make your investment in America’s future.

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