Lawmakers grill DHS over long-delayed day care safe sleep policies

Children daycare death legislature

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Lawmakers grilled the Department of Human Services over long-delayed safe sleeping rules at Hawaii day care facilities.

In a packed room at the State capitol on Friday, a frustrated Sen. Brickwood Galuteria questioned the DHS director.

"It's been three years, eight months and 26 days since the 2013 bill became law and you still haven't adopted the rules," he said.

In 2013, a bill aimed at preventing sudden infant death syndrome in childcare programs was signed into law.

Initially, DHS opposed it and promised lawmakers it would change its administrative rules -- instead of spelling it out in legislation -- to require infants to be put down to sleep on their backs. Four years later, those policies still don't exist.

"When you promise us that it will be done, we expect it to be done," said Galuteria.

Cynthia King, along with other concerned parents, testified before the Senate Committee on Human Sevices.

"There has been at least three deaths as a result of unsafe sleep practices in state-licensed child cares alone in the last three years," she said.

In 2014, King's four- month old son, Wiley, died in a Honolulu daycare.

She believes he would still be here today, if safe sleep policies were in place sooner.

"I never dreamed I would be back here four years later without him and that the state could fail him so significantly," King said, fighting back tears.

Two new bills introduced this year would bolster safe sleeping rules and toughen sanctions against negligent daycare operators.

DHS now has a new director. He said he hopes to implement the rules by March.

"We will do our best," said DHS Director Pankaj Bhanot. "Can I safeguard everybody at all times? Perhaps it's not possible, but it's not going to be lack of trying that is going to lead to that."

DHS will hold a public hearing on its proposed amendments on February 6th.

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