'Child Care Provider of the Year' Investigated in Child's Death

blocksLeaving a baby or young toddler in the care of someone other than yourself or a trusted family member is one of the hardest things a parent has to do. They're too young to tell you what really goes on when you're not around, and the fact is -- you'll likely really never know. It's all about trust. Usually some due diligence will net you a caring provider who takes great care of your child, but then there are cases like this one out of Sacramento that will make you never want to let your child out of your sight again.

According to a story in The Sacramento Bee, a woman who was voted the city's "family child care provider of the year" in 2008 has recently been under investigation for her role in the death of a 2-month-old infant who died of "undetermined" causes in February while in her care.

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And since the boy's death, other allegations have come to light against Sheila Caceres for things like letting a child wander away from the daycare home she operated, leaving chemicals and medication accessible to children, and oh ... having sex in front of at least one child. And again -- this was the woman once consider the best in the city.

Rachelle Rominger, the mother of the infant who died, spoke about how she trusted Caceres and how impressed she had been with the facility. Her 5-year-old daughter had attended, and she herself had even volunteered "countless hours" there. Rominger told the paper:

No other day care we looked at had stuff like this. We're talking about a two-story wooden play structure. She put in a playground with rubber bark and slides, and you walk in there and you're like, "I don't have this for my children. This is where I want to put my child."

The details of what actually happened to her son are murky, but the allegations are that Caceres found the boy unconscious -- for whatever reason -- then failed to call 911. It wasn't until the father came to pick him up for the day that she told him he wasn't responding, and the father called 911. The bottom line is that things don't add up. Could the boy's death have been prevented? Were other children put in dangerous situations? Those are questions to which answers may never be found, but make us all question those who care for our children ... no matter how much we trust them.

And we should. No matter who recommended them or how fabulous they seem, people get lazy, rules are broken, and sometimes people just don't do their jobs. It doesn't mean we should live in fear of child care providers -- many of us have no choice but to use them -- but rather that we should always be vigilant about drop-ins, looking around, and asking questions. Doing so won't always prevent tragedies like this, but it can help ease worries and alert us to potential problems.

While the investigation is ongoing and has been passed on to the district attorney for possible criminal charges, Caceres has surrendered her license and agreed to a lifetime ban from operating or even being in a daycare home. That's a start, but if she is responsible in any way for this boy's death, then much stronger action against her will hopefully be forthcoming.

Have you ever had a reason to distrust your child care provider? Do stories like this make you nervous about leaving your children in the care of others?


Image via lobo235/Flickr

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