Child Deaths at Unlicensed Day Cares Concern Va. Officials

Virginia regulators are concerned about the number of children's deaths at unlicensed day care facilities in the state.

An analysis of state data by the Richmond Times-Dispatch ( found that at least 51 children died at unlicensed facilities over the past 10 years, compared to nine deaths at state-licensed facilities. The total does not include the recent deaths of three children from injuries suffered in fires at unlicensed home day cares in Chesterfield and Lynchburg, which fell outside the reporting period.

"I'm greatly concerned,'' Carl Ayers, director of family services for the Virginia Department of Social Services, told the newspaper.

"It warrants additional study and an additional look to see what we can do to ensure the safety of our children that are being placed in facilities with providers, whether they are regulated or unregulated,'' he said. "It tells us we've got some work that we need to do.''

Investigators determined abuse or neglect contributed to 27 deaths in unlicensed day cares, compared to three in licensed facilities during the same period.

In at least seven deaths, providers were watching too many children, the newspaper said.

"I'd say we're very concerned about it,'' Eddie Richardson, the agency's associate director of licensing, told the newspaper.

"We rely on the public and parents to make us aware of these situations where there are large numbers of children in care,'' he said. "And once we're notified, we go out and conduct an investigation to find out what's going on.''

No determination of wrongdoing could be made in the other cases. But a child was more likely to die of sudden infant death syndrome or of a newer classification, sudden unexpected infant death, in unlicensed facilities. At least 14 such deaths occurred in unlicensed facilities, compared with five in licensed facilities between 2004 and the first seven months of 2014, the newspaper said.

State oversight ensures providers maintain at least a minimum standard of care, including training in first aid and CPR, development of emergency plans, and how children should be supervised, Richardson said.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe plans to seek new regulations during the 2015 legislative session to require day care providers receiving public subsidies to acquire a state license.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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