Harrisonburg Parent Speaks at HHS Quality Child Care Press Event

Elly Lafkin, Child Care Aware® of America Parent Leader, praises U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Proposed Child Care Regulations


ARLINGTON, Va., May 17, 2013—Elly Lafkin, a Harrisonburg parent, represented parents across the country at a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) press event Thursday where Secretary Kathleen Sebelius proposed new health and safety guidelines for child care settings, including fingerprint background checks of providers.

Elly Lafkin, whose 13-week-old daughter died while in child care, spoke at the event, which was held at Centro Nia, a bilingual, multicultural early learning center in the nation’s capital. “To me, anyone in the business of caring for someone else’s child ought to have a comprehensive background check,” said Lafkin.

“This is an important step for children, and we’re pleased to see many of our longstanding recommendations in today’s announcement, such as CPR certification, safe sleep, and background checks based on fingerprints,” said Lynette M. Fraga, Ph.D., Executive Director of Child Care Aware® of America. “Millions of working parents depend on child care and assume certain safety measures are already in place for their children, however state policies vary widely. Parents need to know their children are safe and in a setting that promotes their healthy development.”

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said at the event, “Many children already benefit from the excellent care of high quality child care providers who are meeting or exceeding the proposed requirements. However, too many children remain in settings that do not meet minimum standards of health and safety. These basic rules ensure that providers take necessary basic steps to shield children from an avoidable tragedy.”

Lafkin and her husband, Cameron, decided to put their infant daughter, Camden, in a family child care home after a referral from two friends. The Lafkins ran a Virginia court-operated, public knowledge background check, and nothing suspicious was found. They did not know that the background check was not based on fingerprints so it did not reveal a list of alias names their provider used in the past.

After only four weeks, they received the call no parent wants to receive. Their daughter was found unresponsive while in the provider’s care. After further investigation, the Lafkins found out that the child care provider had methamphetamine and marijuana in the home, as well as six children, which should have required a license.

Elly and Cameron are now strong advocates for comprehensive background checks, including fingerprint checks against state and federal records, for all child care providers to ensure that no family has to suffer the tragedy that has happened to them.

Today, nearly 11 million children under age 5 are in some type of child care setting every week. On average, children of working mothers spend 35 hours every week in child care. Studies repeatedly have shown that quality child care helps children enter school ready to learn.

For more information, please contact Tracey Schaefer at 703-341-4148 or tracey.schaefer@usa.childcareaware.org.

Child Care Aware® of America is our nation’s leading voice for child care. We work with more than 600 state and local Child Care Resource and Referral agencies to ensure that families in every local community have access to high quality, affordable child care. To achieve our mission, we lead projects that increase the quality and availability of child care professionals, undertake research, and advocate child care policies that positively impact the lives of children and families. To learn more about Child Care Aware® of America and how you can join us in ensuring access to quality child care for all families, visit us at www.usa.childcareaware.org.