ATLANTA - A DeKalb County woman wants to change a state law concerning licensing child care facilities after her 2-month-old died in a home day care.
Channel 2's Lori Geary spoke with state lawmakers who want to require the state to do a check of abuse and neglect issues, along with a criminal background check, before issuing day care licenses.
A criminal background check will not always reveal issues of abuse and neglect, unless there are very serious charges. Lé'Vaughn Johnson is hoping to help make sure that abuse and neglect issues are available to those making decisions on day care in Georgia.
"All I have left now is this. This is Quale at his funeral," Johnson said, holding up a picture of her son. "Children are not supposed to die in day care."
She told Geary that she found A Touch of Love day care on the state agency's website that licenses child care facilities.
"As a parent, I'm thinking, ‘Oh, for her to be licensed, the state already does a criminal background check, so she should be fine,’" said Johnson.
Five years ago, Johnson dropped her son off for his second day at the now-closed Stone Mountain day care not knowing that it was the last time she would see her baby alive.
"I saw the yellow tape in front of the home. At that time I knew it said ‘crime scene,’ I knew my son was dead," said Johnson. "I had to kiss the body bad, I needed to touch him."
The DeKalb County Medical Examiner initially ruled Quale's death SIDS, but Johnson had state experts review the evidence. The cause of death was changed to “undetermined.”
No one was charged in Quale's death, but Channel 2 Action News obtained the investigative file which shows the day care shut down two months later and cited for several violations, including not reporting Quale’s death, as required by law.
Investigators also found that the owner actually left her home, leaving Quale in the care of her husband, who had many inconsistencies in his story.
Johnson also told Geary that one of the investigators and neighbors told her that the owner of the day care had a history with the Division of Family and Children Services.
"Her own children had been taken a couple of years prior to my son's death," said Johnson.
Documents show that because of Quale's death, the owner does not meet a major qualification surrounding abuse and neglect, but under current law, that wouldn't necessarily come up if she tried to open up another day care.
"She is on the list, but it did not rise to the level of criminality in that case," said DeKalb County state Rep. Billy Mitchell.
Mitchell told Geary he was shocked to learn that the state agency that licenses day care does criminal background checks but is not required to check DFCS' database containing information on child abuse and neglect cases.
"You wouldn't want your child to be around somebody on this list. I certainly would not," said Mitchell.
Mitchell told Geary he is trying to get around confidentiality issues, proposing a bill to require the state day care licensing agency to check the DFCS database before issuing a license.
"When it comes to the safety of children, knowledge is power," said Mitchell.
Johnson said, "I feel like it's my duty to not only inform parents of what is going on and what happened to me, and the consequences of not having this bill, but it is also my duty to advocate for this. We need to keep children safe in Georgia,"
According to the national nonprofit Child Care Aware, Georgia is the only one of five states that does not require a state background check for abuse and neglect when it comes to day care owners and employees.