It was an ordinary day like any other when Elly and her husband received a call from their child care provider that their infant daughter, Camden, had somehow choked and was taken to a nearby hospital. The couple rushed to the emergency room, their hearts in their hands, hoping for the best, only to be told that their little girl had died of Sudden Unexpected Infant Death (SUID).
In the months that followed, more details about their case emerged from Child Protective Services and the local sheriff. They learned that their provider was not exactly the person they thought she was – she had five alias names and even prior felony convictions, none of which had showed up on the background check the two had done prior to hiring her. The sheriff found drugs in her home at the time of Camden’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,” Elly said. “As a parent, you do everything you can to make sure your child is in the safest, healthiest environment possible. We thought we had done everything right.”
The couple had checked their child care provider’s references, visited her center and performed a background check. She came out clean. This left them wondering exactly where they went wrong.
Wanting answers, they began researching child care laws and realized it wasn’t just the provider who had failed them, it was also the system. Determined to make a change, they partnered with a CFC-supported charity to share their story nationally with political leaders.
Participating in the charity’s advocacy trainings and using their resources and knowledge gave them the opportunity to turn their heartbreak into a lesson for other families, so no one else would ever have to know the pain Elly and her husband went through after losing their baby girl.
November 19, 2014 saw progress when the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) Act of 2014 was signed into law, drastically updating health and safety laws for child care providers.
Their advocacy also brought change to Virginia – Camden’s Law was signed by Virginia’s governor in 2015, requiring that all licensed and registered child care providers in the state have fingerprint background checks.
“The final bill was not what we started with, but it is the first update to Virginia’s child care laws in 25 years and is one step closer to our goal – making child care in Virginia safer for children,” Elly said.
Despite these improvements, there’s still plenty that needs to be done, and Elly and her husband continue to advocate at the state level with the charity to strengthen child care laws.
Though they still work to bring even more change, they are grateful of the progress already made so far: “There is no way we could have achieved this without the support of Federal employees and members of the military who contribute to CFC. Your support is helping to save children’s lives.”