Inspect the Rest - Part 2

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Monday, March 1, 2010

Lexie was the Englemans firstborn. On a normal August morning, the 13-month -ld was dropped off at only her third day of daycare.

"The child care provider left the child area, which was in the basement, and went upstairs." said Kim Engleman, Lexie's mother. "Lexie, being very mobile and distressed because this was a new situation, tried to follow the day care provider and couldn't get past the baby gate. Basically she was lodged up against there and couldn't get herself out and was asphyxiated."

Lexie was on life support for five days. Through tears, Lexie's mother recalls the day.

"We had to make the worst decision of our lives and that evening we had to walk out of that hospital without our daughter."

It's bad enough, say the Englemans, that the Johnson County day care provider left the room. What's worse, they say, is that it was not against Kansas regulations to do so. They say many parents don't know that according to State regulations, day care providers need only to be in "earshot" of the children at their day care, not within "eyesight."

"That means you could be a football field away," says Engleman. "If there was a requirement that people need to be in eyesight and earshot, our child would be alive today."

Thirty children have died in Kansas day cares in the past three years, ten of those in Sedgwick County. Many, say child advocates, because the provider just wasn't watching them.

The Englemans have been pushing for changes in regulations during the five years since Lexie has been gone. They finally have a bill before the legislature that says, except when napping, providers must within "eyesight" of the children they are watching. Through billboards, a website and more, the Kansas Action for Children is getting the word out.

"Legislators have the opportunity to do something positive and constructive," says Gary Brunk of the K.A.C. "This is something that's not going to cost the state money, and will ensure a level of protections for consumers for parents that has not existed before."

The Kansas Action for Children got Senator Julia Lynn of Johnson County to sponsor Senate Bill 447.

"This bill would provide specific definitions of what supervision is in a child care facility," says Senator Lynn, a Republican. "In other words, they need to be within sight and sound of the children."

"I am very afraid that it won't go through this session," says Kim, Lexie's mother. "And then we'll have to wait until next session and we know more children will die in Kansas."

Senator Lynn says if the bill doesn't pass this session, she will bring it up again next year.

"She would have been six years old, " says Lexie's mother. "She would have been in kindergarten. There is so much that we are losing out on her life."

Kim and her husband Bryan say if the bill doesn't pass, they want to get the warning out to other parents. That warning they say, no matter if the day care is licensed or registered, your little on could be left in a room with no one watching.

"We believe she can see us from heaven," says Kim Engleman. "She's our cheerleader and the one who's helping to keep moving forward and saying, 'Yea mom and dad, make it right.'"

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