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Tragedy at daycare; work together to prevent the unthinkable

Written by Tiffany Verzal

Written By:  Tiffany Verzal @ Stand with Faith

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2011, 70.6 percent of mothers with children under the age of 18 are employed.  That means that there are a lot of children in daycare.  Due to the nature of Alexis’ injury, the subject of daycare comes up in many different forms when I have conversations with people.

I can’t begin to count the number of times that, after telling Alexis’ story, I have heard, “That’s why I don’t put my child in daycare.”  I’ve also heard, “I’ve been trying to decide if I should go back to work, now I am not going to.”  I’ve also had many people ask what my opinion is about daycare, and I am sure they asked because they wanted to hear how much I hate daycare…but I don’t.

Here’s my bottom line, I am glad that there are daycare facilities.  Why?  Because there are so many people that have healed Alexis and touched our lives that made the choice to send their children to daycare.  Doctors and nurses, who literally gave Alexis life again – had kids in daycare.  The therapists and nurses who have helped give Alexis independence that we never thought she would have – had their kids in daycare.

In fact, after a month-and-a-half of being in the hospital, the first place therapists took Alexis to start “integrating” her back into the real world was the daycare they have at Madonna.

I think that daycare facilities have the potential to foster great learning environments.  In fact, there are probably times that being in a daycare may be a lot better for a child than staying at home.

But, believe it or not, the daycare vs. stay-at-home isn’t the “hot button” issue here.

When I start talking about the incident that happened to Alexis, the people who run the home daycares are the ones that get really offended.  I am sure if I was in their shoes, I would have the same reaction. 

When I have an opportunity (and feel like it) to delve deep into the story of Alexis’ injury,  I always start something like this, “Alexis was hurt while she was at a home daycare. The person who ran this daycare had almost twenty years of experience, and we knew twelve different families that had taken their children there over those years.  I felt like I had done the right things when it came to choosing a daycare.”

I’ve had home daycare providers come up to me after speeches and say things like, “That would never happen at my home.”  “I love children. The kids I take care of are like my own.”  I totally agree with them.  I would venture to say that most of the people who take care of kids would say the same thing.

I think that is what is really scary.  It’s scary for a parent, and it is scary for a daycare provider too.  Regardless of what people’s intentions are, kids still get hurt.

I don’t know what happened the day that Alexis was injured.  I don’t know how it happened. All I have to go off of is what doctors and child abuse experts have told me and that is what decades of medical research and evidence tells them.

During the trial I found out that there were a lot of stress factors happening in the home where Alexis was being cared for; things I wasn’t aware of.

I bring this up not to offend, or to say that this same thing is going to happen to someone else.  I bring this up to stop it from happening to another child.  I honestly feel like if people have Alexis’ story in the back of their mind, maybe it will prevent another child from getting hurt.

I think home daycare can be great.  They are more intimate. As a parent, it feels good to leave your children with a friend or family.  But I wish we could level the field a bit more on both sides.

Here’s my wish list:

Daycare providers

  1.  Be honest with the parents.  If there is a kid driving you up the wall, tell the parents.  Work together to set some goals and boundaries on both sides.   Just because you are having problems with a child doesn’t mean you don’t know how to take care of children.
  2. Be honest with yourself.  If a family crisis or something in your life is making it extremely difficult for you to take care of children, take a personal day…or two.  Sure, it’s an inconvenience to the families of the children you watch, but if it makes you a better childcare provider (and keeps kids safe), I am sure it is better for everyone.
  3. Get licensed.  It’s there for a reason.
  4. Be educated.  As part of being licensed you are required to take a “Safe with you” class that teaches you about safe sleep, shaken baby syndrome, and child abuse and neglect.   This allows you an opportunity to practice an environment that keeps kids safe, to educate parents, and to detect the signs of those issues.

Parents

  1. Be open and honest with your daycare provider.  If you have an issue, talk about it over the weekend or later in the evening.  Not when other parents are picking up their kids and the daycare providers’ day is coming to an end.
  2. Be respectful of the daycare providers’ sick days and personal days.  If they need it, they need it.  Don’t give them any grief.
  3. If the daycare provider comes to you with a problem about your child, listen to them.  Don’t assume that they are exaggerating.  Just listen and work to find a solution.
  4. Be respectful of the daycare providers’ day and business.  Pick your children up on time and pay them when it is due.

Parents and daycare providers, we can do this.  We have the power to stop something like what happened to Alexis from happening again.  Share this, post it, do whatever you have to do to open up the lines of communication between families and childcare providers.  I won’t reveal which step above it was, but if just that one would have been taken back in 2008, Alexis would have a completely different life than she has today.

Read the three part series of Alexis’ Story…

About the author

Tiffany Verzal

Tiffany Verzal was raised in rural Nebraska, and now lives in Lincoln, Nebraska with her husband Brandon and daughter Alexis (9) and Abby (2). In 2008, Alexis (then 14-months-old) was the victim of shaken baby syndrome at the hands of her daycare provider in Texas. Alexis suffered severe brain damage and has spent over 2000 hours in rehabilitation since her injury. Tiffany continues to raise awareness for traumatic brain injury, shaken baby syndrome and child abuse. Brandon and Tiffany serve as members on Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital’s Board of Trustees. Brandon is currently the Chairman of the Nebraska Child Abuse Prevention Fund Board.

5 Comments

  • It’s interesting that people said to you that the children they care for are like their own children. Don’t they think that it can happen to people’s own children by their own hands? Any one who cares for children – or pets or adults – can get frustrated and stressed. And ANYONE, I don’t care who you are or who you think you are, has the potential to hurt someone else. Depending on the day, the hour, the minute, any one of us could snap. It happens all the time. I can think of times I have been so frustrated and tired and angry with my children. It’s hard to walk away, and I can understand how it happens in an instant that you cannot take back.

    I’m not trying to be a downer here, and I’m not trying to suggest that we live our lives in fear of other people, but we need to be honest with ourselves. I think your wish list is a great place to start a conversation about mutual understanding and working together.

  • I like the list. As a former daycare provider, I too-agree with you Tiffany and with what Kathy is saying. Its easy to get frustrated. It’s also one of the reasons I stopped providing childcare, I was on the way to a burn out. Knowing ourselves and our limits is key to preventing tragedies like this. We love your voice, your insight and your family. Thank you for being that voice Tiffany!

  • Hi, I live in Florida, and I am writing a book about a friend’s grandchild who died as a result of blunt force trauma to the head which included SBS at the hands of a home daycare provider. The case, The State of Florida vs. Stephanie Spurgeon, is finally over after many delays and weird turns of events, and Spurgeon, convicted of Manslaughter, will be sentenced on August 20th. It has been a 4 year battle for my friend and her family. Her little granddaughter would have turned 5 this month.

    My heart goes out to you and the difficulty you have endured with Alexis’ struggle. I would like to include your thoughts and opinions in my book. I am hoping to go to publication around the end of the year. I’ve finished with the trial portion and I am working on the history of my friend and her daughter and granddaughter, as well as wrapping up some interviews. Please contact me by email if you want to discuss this situation.

    I am frustrated at the large segment of the population that refuses to believe that SBS is real. I will be promoting awareness in the book as well.

    Janice B.

    • Hello again,

      The book I mention in my comment above has been published by Tate Publishing. It details the tragedy of the sweet one year old girl who was killed due to an angry moment in the hands of her day care provider on her very first day there. The book, “Too Brief a Candle”, is available on the publisher’s website, and will be released in early February through mass marketing, including Amazon.com. It also dicusses what to look for and what to avoid in day cares.

      https://www.tatepublishing.com/bookstore/search.php?search=Too+brief+a+candle

      J. M. Barlow.