JEFFERSON CITY - A House committee on Tuesday heard parents’ emotional testimonies about how their children died in daycare facilities to expand state regulation of daycare facilities.
The bill entitled “Nathan’s law,” was named after three-month old Nathan Blecha. Nathan died in 2007 from lack of oxygen at a daycare after he was placed face-down on a bed.
Current Missouri law requires that a licensed daycare must put babies on their back to sleep. But the law doesn’t apply to non-state regulated daycares.
“We were told by the police department that there’s nothing that they could do because she was unlicensed and she was remorseful,” Nathan's mother, Shelley Blecha told the House Children Committee.
The measure before the committee would remove an exemption from licensing for a daycare facility for family members that also includes non-family children. The bill would require licensing if daycare facility of family members includes at least one child not related to the daycare provider and has more than four children.
Blecha, from Imperial Mo., said that the day her son died she found out his at-home daycare had 10 children. She said six of those children weren’t the provider’s relatives but charges weren’t brought against the daycare provider.
Bill sponsor Rep. Jill Shupp, D-Creve Coer, said “Nathan’s Law” is meant to protect the safety and lives of small children in daycares whether they are licensed or not. She said a 2002 audit of Missouri daycare facilities found that some unlicensed daycare facilities were unsafe and unhealthy environments for children.
“State law allows family childcare home providers to care for more children then is recommended by the national fire safety codes,” Shupp said.
Kerry Messer with the Missouri Family Network spoke in opposition of the bill. Kerry said the bill would put babysitters under a microscope making them criminals.
"If someone is babysitting kids and there is an emergency where they have to take on onr additional child then all of a sudden they are in violation of the law," Messer said.
Rep. Genise Montecillo, D-St. Louis, who became teary-eyed after Blecha testimony, said she couldn’t understand how someone from MO Family Network could speak against this bill and was appalled that Kerry decided to speak in opposition.
“It is beyond my comprehension that your sitting there testifying against it,: Montecello said.
Shupp said the lack of standards of unlicensed daycares usually only get noticed once there is a complaint and by then it’s too late to save a child’s life.
Kerry said this issue has been around for 30 years and that he is bringing a historical view to the committee. He said people were making the issue emotional by pointing out individual cases and that a sound policy needs to be made.
The committee took no immediate action on the bill.