Grieving mothers push for tougher Hawaii day care laws

Grieving mothers push for tougher Hawaii day care laws
Updated: Feb. 28, 2017 at 7:24 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Three grieving mothers are pushing state lawmakers for changes to help prevent day care deaths.

Their babies died at licensed residential day cares on Oahu. The women watched state lawmakers on Tuesday vote to advance a pair of bills with tougher rules for the daycare centers.

The most recent death happened in 2015, when six-month-old Zoe Wurtz died of hyperthermia, or overheating, at an Ewa Beach babysitter's house.

In 2014, four-month-old Wiley Muir died of an undetermined cause at a Honolulu day care, and later that year, two-month-old Triton Forsyth was found dead at another Ewa Beach day care.

Forsyth's mother said he died after being put to sleep on his side on a comforter laying on the floor. She struggled to tell her two young daughters what had happened.

"I had to sit them down and tell them that he passed away, and you know the questions, right?" said Clarice Forsyth, fighting back tears.

The heartbroken mothers are asking lawmakers to require child care providers to have liability insurance by 2019. The Department of Human Services supports the idea, but officials say the added cost might reduce the number of day cares.

"We requested the legislature give us enough time so we can figure it out, what are the rates and what impact it would have," explained DHS director Pankaj Bhanot.

Another proposal would require DHS to post child care inspection records on a public website. In 2015, there were 30 alleged types of violations, and investigators confirmed 7 safety violations.

Last year, there were 43 alleged types of violations; 10 were confirmed, including one case of an injured child.

The agency does not want to post unsubstantiated complaints.

"It can give a wrong signal and put the providers in jeopardy of not having any business because somebody can just file a frivolous report," Bhanot said.

DHS is already working on a website with inspection information and substantiated violations to comply with changes in federal law. The site is expected to go live in July 2018.

"Our hope is that nobody else should have to go through what we went through, but on top of that, nobody should have to go through what we went through and then face this impossible bureaucracy of not being able to get justice for their children," said Cynthia King, the mother of Wiley Muir.

There are nearly 400 registered family child care homes and 6 licensed group child care homes across Hawaii. The state just switched from scheduled inspections to unannounced visits.

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