It is far too easy to forget children in cars and vans. Accordingly, In the wake of recent deaths stemming from neglect by day care centers, Palm Beach County plans to become the first in Florida to require day care center vans to include alarms intended to prevent children being left in vehicles.
The alarms are intended to remind drivers and other employees to check the entire vehicle every time they unload children. The alarms would force drivers to go to the back of the van to shut it off and would sound inside and outside of the vehicle.
As reported by the Sun Sentinel, the Palm Beach County Commission gave initial approval to requiring all local day care centers to install the alarms. Final approval by the commission is expected Aug. 16.
“Every child care van should have some kind of safeguard,” said state Sen. Maria Sachs, D-Delray Beach, who pushed for a state law that failed to pass the Legislature in the spring. “Today I’m proud to be from Palm Beach County.”
Palm Beach County’s proposed alarm requirement would be added to other child care regulations up for final approval in August. Those regulations also include requiring more than one day care center employee to ride in the vehicles that transport children.
Other proposed changes to day care regulations include: increasing the fees for operating the facilities, requiring employees to have at least a high school diploma and completing criminal background checks before employees are cleared to start work.
On Aug. 5, 2010, Haile Brockington, 2, died after being left strapped in a hot van for more than six hours outside a Delray Beach day care center.
On July 11, 2011, Dominicue Andrews, a 22 month old toddler died because he was left behind in the center’s van all day where temperatures may have reached in the mid-90s.
Unfortunately, each summer, several children across Florida die after being left in vehicles, according to the Health Department.
The alarms are a way to “prompt the driver to take another look” and “assure the safety of children,” Palm Beach County Health Department spokesman Tim O’Connor said.
While Florida lawmakers balked at a statewide law, Tennessee and Louisiana already require alarms for day care vans.
“When you see these terrible tragedies happen, people are not doing their jobs. These alarms are a great idea,” said Janette Fennell, founder of children’s safety organization, KidsandCars.org, based in Leawood, Kan.
After Haile’s death at Katie’s Kids Learning Center in Delray Beach, which is now closed, investigators found that day care employees did not check off the transportation log as children were unloaded from the van. They also determined that the driver, Amanda Inman, didn’t check the van, that a second employee did not double check the van as required, and that supervisor Petra Rodriguez signed the log without doing a check of her own.
Inman and Rodriguez face charges of aggravated manslaughter of a child.
State politics, not day care opposition, torpedoed the proposed statewide requirement this year, said Lisa Olds, executive director for the Florida Association for Child Care Management. The group represents 1,200 day care facilities across the state, including in Palm Beach County.
“This shouldn’t be a partisan issue,” said County Commissioner Burt Aaronson, a Democrat. “The House of Representatives not passing this is a great injustice.”
The fact that this law was not passed statewide is shameful. Had partisan politics not manifested itself, then perhaps 22 month old Dominicue Andrews would not have been left behind in a van and died.
While other safeguards are important to have in place, (transportation log, checking the van, a second employee double checking the van), the alarm is the only safeguard that is not subject to human neglect.
The Parents of young Dominicue have filed a Wrongful Death lawsuit against The Jomiba Learning Center which is located at 1005 N. Krome Ave, Homestead, Fl.
Since the legislators and day care employees failed to do their job, it is left up to the Miami Personal Injury Attorneys to file lawsuits and raise awareness in hopes that these preventable incidents do not happen again.