Thursday, September 18, 2008

Child Care center regulations may get an overhaul

By Nancy Cambria

See the article

After 17 years of using the same rules, Missouri is considering revising the safety and licensing standards for the state's 2,200 child care centers and group homes.

A work group of about 40 met for the first time Tuesday in Columbia to consider reshaping the regulations — enacted in 1991 — that deal with everything from class enrollment size to professional development, hygiene and safety in the centers. If successful, the state expects to put the new rules on the books a year from now. It will then address rules for in-home day cares and other settings.

This is the second time in three years the state has attempted to revise the rules that some consider outdated and lax.

All of Missouri's eight neighboring states, for example, require their child care workers to take a basic first aid courses, and seven require CPR training for at least some workers. Missouri's workers, though required to have 12 hours of unspecified training a year, may begin their employment without basic health or safety instruction, and have no CPR or first aid training.

"We require this training of people who do our nails and our hair and the basic grooming of our dogs, but not to the care of our children," said Carol Scott, director of the Missouri Child Care Resource and Referral Network, one of the members of the work group, which includes child care providers, policymakers and regulators.

Basic safety training is a critical issue for Steve and Shelley Blecha, whose baby Nathan died of suffocation last year when a caregiver put him down for a nap on his abdomen — a practice condemned by health professionals because of the risk of sudden infant death syndrome.

A required course in infant safety would have likely saved his son's life, Steve Blecha said.

"How much more simple can it be?" he asked. "If he had been placed face up, he wouldn't have died."

In 2005, the Missouri Department of the Health and Senior Services, which oversees child care regulation in the state, attempted unsuccessfully to internally revise the rules for every type of provider at once. It failed to gain support from providers, who argued the changes would prove a financial hardship.

This time, the state is taking a different approach. In June it held five public hearings around the state to collect opinions from providers, parents, regulators, safety and education experts. Hired consultants with the National Association for Regulatory Administration then culled the opinions into a report that is now the backbone of the work group sessions, said Corinne Patton, one of the three consultants.

The proposals considered Tuesday included ways to strengthen employee background checks and capping the number of 4-year-olds allowed in a classroom at 20, and 5-year-olds at 32. There is currently no limit to the number of preschool-age children in a classroom at one time.

The group Tuesday also considered health and safety training of child care workers, including mandatory CPR and first aid certification, and a basic orientation covering state regulations.

Work group participants said Tuesday that they were making steady progress. Ann Bingham, director of Childgarden Child Development Center in St. Louis, said the state made a big effort to include providers from around the state in the process.

"We're really part of a group that's making the rules work for everyone from a management standpoint," she said.

Tuesday was the first of five work group sessions scheduled through December.

Scott said her organization plans to push for a review of the state's current policy allowing church- and school-based centers to remain license-exempt. Although these facilities follow fire codes, they don't have to follow licensing rules and aren't subject to inspections by regulators.

"There's a lot of energy in the state from a variety of stakeholders to have more school child care and the faith-based programs regulated. The question is, how high is the energy to keep things the way they are?" Scott said.

Although advocates of quality early childhood education said they applaud the drive to revise rules, some, such as Stephen Zwolak, director of the University City Children's Center, warned that Missouri is woefully behind the curve regarding training and early childhood education in its centers.

During its last legislative session, lawmakers did not advance a quality rating system proposal that would have ranked providers, rewarding those with strong curricula, educated teachers and learning-centered facilities.

Zwolak said the state needs to raise the bar, focusing also on teacher education. At his child care center, providers — called faculty — are given weekly professional development from early childhood experts on topics such as early literacy, child development and classroom practice. Yet, he said, the state is still struggling to get basic first aid approved.

"Right now, the state's developed standards as exactly that — the bare minimum," Zwolak said. "We devalue the value of our children with a system that looks only to the bottom."


Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Lawmaker seeks tougher day-care laws

An infant's death at an unlicensed home day-care center near Arnold should be a wake-up call for better child safety, says a local lawmaker.

"I think the bottom line is that Missouri's weak laws are putting children at risk," said State Rep. Rachel Storch, D-St. Louis, who plans to introduce a package of child-care reforms next January. "We have problems with regulations and we have problems with our complaint process."

Click here to read the entire article

July 14 KMOX Interview w/ Senator Rachel Storch

Click here to listen to Steve and Shelley's July 14 interview on the Charlie Brennan show with Senator Rachel Storch.

Friday, July 11, 2008

KMOX Monday July 14th

Steve and Shelley will be on KMOX 1120AM again this Monday, July 14th at 9:30 a.m. on the Charlie Brennan show. His show starts at 9:00 a.m., but I believe their interview won’t begin until 9:30 a.m. Senator Rachel Storch will also be on there with them as an advocate. Be sure to listen!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Thoughts on Empathy

We must be tender with the young,
Compassionate with the aged,
Sensitive with the striving,
And tolerant with the weak and wrong.

- Author Unknown

Monday, July 7, 2008

The Interview on Charlie Brennan's Show

Click here to listen to the interview

I thought Steve and Shelley did great on the radio! It takes alot of bravery to put yourself out there and tell your story. One thing bothers me though...The last lady who called in, "Donna", thinks she's perfect and she would never take her kid to a daycare with 10 children to 2 adults. Well, I'm not sure about Donna's state of mind because first she thought they said there were TWO HUNDRED kids at that house in Arnold, but, whatever. I tried to call and comment, but it was too late. I hate that she was the last caller.

But, what I would like to ask "Donna" is if she would take her kid to a daycare with 6 kids to 2 adults. I'd imagine she'd say yes. I'd also like to know what she thinks about the fact that Missouri doesn't count kids who are related to the daycare provider, and that even though, physically, there were 10 kids there who all needed to be taken care of, Missouri only counts 6. Because those 4 who are related to the daycare owner magically don't need any care or ever get hurt or need adult supervision.

So, "Perfect Donna", what do you think about that? Don't you think there's something wrong there? How does Missouri measure up?

Friday, July 4, 2008

Grief, It's Not as Evil as You Think

I want you to know about a presentation that Pam Weiss, Annie's Hope Horizons Coordinator, is doing in collaboration with Heartland Hospice.

"Grief, It's Not as Evil as You think"
Wednesday, July 16th
6:30 PM
at Spazios in the Comfort Inn Westport
12301 Lackland Road

There is a meal cost of $14 to attend.
You can pay with a check when you arrive.

The dinner buffet includes salad, rolls, almond encrusted pork, Chef's
vegetable medley, cavatelli bolognese, dessert & drinks.

Please call to make your reservation by July 14th by calling 314-453-0990

Highway 270 to Page East- Exit 16A to Lackland Road, go right then pass
though the 2nd stoplight. The hotel will be on the right at the top if the hill.
Call 878-1400 if you need additional directions.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Interview with KMOX on Monday, July 7

Nathan's story was on the Charlie Brennan Show on KMOX this morning, and Nathan's parents have an interview with KMOX (1120 AM) on Monday, July 7, 2008 at 9am. Be sure to listen!

Monday, June 30, 2008

We Made the Front Page of the Post!

Infant's death shows gaps in care licensing

JEFFERSON COUNTY — Leslie Lutz and her sister Louise Tesson had a way with small children.

Every weekday about 7 a.m., parents toting infant carriers and diaper bags arrived at Lutz's tidy ranch house in a subdivision near Arnold. Tesson gave the little ones pet names such as Crunch 'n' Munch and Little Cracker Jacker. And Lutz was generous with parenting tips.


Monday, June 23, 2008

Senator Obama introduces the Preventing Stillbirth and SUID Act of 2008

First Candle is pleased to announce its full support of the Preventing Stillbirth and Sudden Unexpected Infant Death Act of 2008 which was introduced on Tuesday, June 17th by U.S. Senator Barack Obama of Illinois. The bill would establish a national stillbirth and SUID registry and promote prevention and risk reduction activities nationwide.

Each year, more than 25,000 women in the United States experience a stillbirth and approximately 4,500 infants die suddenly and unexpectedly. First Candle, a leading health organization dedicated to safe pregnancies and the survival of babies through the first year of life, has served as a lead advisor to Senator Obama in crafting the bill.

First Candle urges you to write to your Senators and encourage them to join Senator Obama by adding their name as cosponsor of this important legislation.
Additionally, we also invite you to support H.R. 5979, the Stillbirth Awareness and Research Act of 2008, introduced by Congressman Peter King of New York.

To learn more today about these groundbreaking bills visit Thank you for your support in the belief that every baby should live.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Strides for SIDS 2008!

This first annual Strides for SIDS was a great success! We had wonderful weather, and a great turnout! Thank you to those who participated, volunteered, and donated your time or helped out financially. Next year is going to be even better! Here are a few pics from the event:

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Listen to KMOX on Sunday, May 11!

This Sunday Lori from SIDS Resources, Inc. will be on KMOX around 1:30 to talk about safe sleep practices for babies! Be sure to check it out!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Register for the Strides for SIDS event!!!

Have you registered yet for Strides for SIDS on May 31 in Forest Park? If not, please do so now! The clock is ticking :)

Print a registration form here:
Registration Form for Strides for SIDS 5K (PDF)

Would you rather register online? Click here!

Would you like to volunteer at the event? Print a volunteer form here:
Volunteer Form for Strides for SIDS 5K (PDF)

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Nathan's Article in the Jefferson County Journal

ARNOLD: Parents on crusade after death of infant son
Nathan Blecha died at unlicensed day care

By Trish Wallace
Tuesday, March 18, 2008 12:49 PM CDT

He would have celebrated his first birthday Monday, licking a first taste of birthday cake icing off of his fingers and learning to unwrap presents on his own.

Instead, Nathan Jay Blecha died last summer at an in-home day care in Arnold just two days after he turned 3 months old. He suffocated after being put down for a nap on his stomach instead of his back.

His death was officially declared accidental, but Nathan's parents, Steve and Shelley Blecha, of Imperial, believe the tragedy was preventable and want to save other families from experiencing similar grief.Steve said that when he is out in public and sees a family with a baby, he has to fight the urge to rush up to the parents and tell them to be careful.

The Blechas do not believe the owner of the day care intended for any harm to come to their son and believe she is remorseful over Nathan's death.

"We're certainly not doing this to do a witch hunt," Steve said.

Instead, they want to raise awareness about the dangers of unlicensed day cares and the importance of laying babies to sleep on their backs.

June 26, 2007

Just like any other Tuesday morning, the Blechas dropped off Nathan and his 3-year-old brother, Clayton, at the day care in Arnold, expecting to see both of their children later that evening. The Blechas said the day care owner's sister was left in charge of 10 children that day.

Shelley said the sister explained later that when she put Nathan down for a nap in a separate room, another baby was already soundly sleeping. Not wanting to disturb the first baby's rest, the sister did not turn on the light in the room, and placed Nathan on his stomach to sleep in a playpen.

Because the room was dark, the sister did not realize the plastic padding on top of the playpen was not only loose but bunched close to Nathan's face.

"He wasn't a long nap taker," Shelley said.

Realizing Nathan was sleeping longer than usual, the sister went into the room to check on Nathan only to discover he wasn't breathing.

He was pronounced dead at a local hospital.

"I think the only reason the paramedics worked on him was as a courtesy to us," Steve said, convinced that by the time his son was discovered, he was already far past the point of recovery.

Shelley was quick to note that Nathan's death was not declared a result of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), though the way he died is similar to the way some SIDS deaths occur. The official autopsy report listed the primary cause of death as re-breath, or suffocation.

The owner of the day care could not be reached for comment.

Learning to cope

Though the baby was only 3 months old, Nathan had already developed a distinct personality completely different from his brother, his parents said.

While Clayton loved being the center of attention and was quite a handful as a baby, Nathan was much more easy going, for the most part only crying when he could not see everything that was going on.

That distinct personality also left a distinct hole in the family's life.

The Blechas said that as a toddler, Clayton was a little jealous of his brother at first, but in the last several weeks of Nathan's life, Clayton had warmed up to the role of big brother. The parents even caught the boy singing to the baby on occasion.

A few days after Nathan died, Clayton asked Steve to fix "my Nathan." The Blechas tried to explain to their son that his brother was with Jesus and that if he looked to the sky he could think of Nathan in heaven.

"He says, 'I'm going to get a trampoline and jump high enough to bring my Nathan down,'" Steve said. "He still goes into his brother's room and says, 'Nathan has a pretty room, Daddy.'"

Although Nathan's death was not a SIDS death, Steve and Shelley are grateful for the help they have received from the SIDS foundation, especially in handling young Clayton's reactions to the tragedy since he was at the day care when Nathan died.

"I'm hopeful that whatever it was that the oldest witnessed, he forgets," Steve said.

Steve stared longingly at one of his favorite pictures of Nathan.

"He was such a good baby," he said.

Nowhere to turn

The Blechas filed a claim against the day-care owner's insurance company, but to no avail. They said her insurance policy was written with the correct wording to exempt the company from any responsibility because the homeowner did not claim her home business with the company.

"It just seems like every step of the way we've been punched in the gut," Steve said.

The Blechas know that no amount of money will remove their months of grief and continued healing, but they had hoped to ease part of the financial burden of the ambulance ride, hospital bills, funeral, burial and loss of wages.

"It's not the money," Shelley said. "We just feel like something needs to be done."

Steve agreed.

"We just don't feel like anything has been done to justify what has happened," he added.

Missouri law

In the months following Nathan's death, his family expected that the county or the state would somehow take care of the situation. They soon learned the reality that no charges would be brought against the day care owner.

While Missouri Revised Statues declare the operation of a child care facility without a license to be unlawful, state law restricts the penalty to a fine, similar to a traffic ticket.

"So it will only cost you $200 to kill someone's kid," Steve said.

However, Missouri legislators are ready to take the first steps toward change. State Rep. Tim Meadows, D-Arnold, just signed on as a co-sponsor to a bill last week that will tighten some of the standards required for the licensing of child care facilities.

"We need to do this," Meadows said. "This is way overdue."

House Bill 2353, was originally filed by state Rep. Regina Walsh, D-Bellefontaine Neighbors, and allows for a day care license to be revoked if the center fails to meet the standards of its municipality. If the facility meets state requirements but fails to meet stricter conditions required from a local municipality, the city can call Jefferson City and request an investigation.

"This is not the cure-all, but it is a step forward," Walsh said.

The bill has already had one hearing.

"My heart goes out to that family," Meadows said after learning about the Blechas' loss.

He said he would be in favor of further legislation that forces more responsibility on those who own child care facilities.

How to choose a child care provider

When Nathan's older brother, Clayton, was born, Steve and Shelley had no idea how to find an appropriate day care facility. Despite all of the preparedness parenting classes offered at hospitals from Lamaze and breast feeding to tips to calm a fussy baby, the Blechas had no idea how to find the right child care provider.

"No one teaches you about day cares or how to shop for one," Shelley said.

Deciding they preferred the personal, homey environment of an in-home day care-known by the state as a family child care home-the Blechas interviewed multiple candidates.

Steve and Shelley finally decided on a woman who had been suggested by their church. They were impressed by her structured curriculum.

"She seemed like she knew what she was doing," Steve said.

Shelley admitted that she knew the day-care provider was not licensed by the state, but the young mother did not realize then that providing child care, even in one's own home, without a license is illegal. She even recommended the day-care services to other families.

"It never dawned on me that I should be concerned about that," Shelley said.

Christine Soong, owner of A Child's Place in Barnhart, started her business as an unlicensed day care in her home but quickly took on the classes required for licensing, including the training that emphasizes the importance of baby sleeping positions.

Soong said day-care owners are required to go through 12 hours of training every year to maintain their licenses. The state performs inspections to make sure all of the center's standards meet state requirements.

She also said that the records of child care facilities and day care centers are open to the public.

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services Web site provides tips to choosing an appropriate and legal day care.

In hindsight, the Blechas know they could have asked more questions and raised concerns.

"If you have to say, 'Wow, it's amazing she can take care of so many kids. I could never do that,' it's a sign," Shelley warned.

Sympathetic to the Blechas grief, Soong complimented their efforts toward change.

"I think it's fantastic that they're trying to make more of an awareness," she said.


The Blechas have been active with SIDS, networking with other families who have suffered the loss of a baby. Because the organization was the only helpful resource for the family after Nathan died, Shelley has worked hard with SIDS Resources to plan the first Strides for SIDS event, a 5k run fund-raiser for the organization. The event is planned for May 31 at Forest Park.

The family has other reasons to be excited. Shelley is pregnant, and the baby is due Aug. 27.

See the article

Friday, March 7, 2008

Many Thanks to the Elks of High Ridge!

We'd like to extend a huge "Thank You" to the Elks of High Ridge for donating the BBQ wagon for us to use on race day!

Thank you so much for your kindness and generosity!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Help us raise funds and awareness for SIDS Resources!

SIDS Resources, Inc. is hosting their first annual 5K in Forest Park on May 31, 2008. This event is monumental in the efforts to raise awareness and funds to ensure every baby thrives and survives. SIDS Resources is a not-for-profit organization that provides family support to those who have experienced the tragedy of sudden infant death, as well as public education on how to reduce the risk.

Join us in this effort in remembrance of Nathan Jay Blecha, who passed away at the all too young age of just 3 months and 2 days. SIDS Resources has been incredibly generous and helpful to my family and others in their time of need. They have joined forces with many other organizations to increase awareness on safe sleep practices for babies, most notably the “Back to Sleep” campaign, and are working hard to make sure this never happens again.

For more information and to donate, simply click the link below:

Thursday, January 24, 2008

State audit suggests harsher penalties for illegal day cares

State audit suggests harsher penalties for illegal day cares

Published Saturday, January 19, 2008
KANSAS CITY (AP) - Missouri officials need to increase penalties against people who operate child day-care centers illegally, a new state audit says.

The report, released Thursday by Missouri State Auditor Susan Montee’s office, said it found instances where the state Department of Health and Senior Services responded to repeated complaints about unlicensed day care operators without prosecuting them or ensuring that they were complying with state law.

Offenders can be fined as much as $200 for a first violation, and subsequent violations are treated as Class A misdemeanors. But the audit said such low penalties have had little effect on some operators who mightmake $100 a week per child.

It also noted that surrounding states charge much higher fines, including Nebraska, which charges operators $5 per day for each child over capacity, and Kansas, with a fine of $500 per violation per day.

In a written response, the department said it was collecting information on substantiated cases against illegal child-care providers and would use that data to determine whether increased penalties are warranted.

The audit also criticized state laws that allow children related to the operators of home-based day-care centers to be exempt from many licensing regulations.

For example, they aren’t counted against the 10-child limit for family day-care home centers or the 20-child limit for group homes, potentially allowing child-care centers to become overcrowded.

Also, related children don’t show up in child discipline or illness records, exposing other children to increased risk of abuse or disease.

Department officials said they tried to count related children toward licensing requirements as part of a 2004 wholesale change of child-care regulations but public criticism led them to shelve the entire measure. They said they will introduce new licensing rules this year focused solely on the related-children issue.

Auditors also found problems with how long it takes the department to complete investigations into complaints and refer them for legal action. For example, a review of 2,722 complaints found that 42 percent of investigations weren’t completed within the required 30 days, and 2 percent weren’t completed within six months.

Audit pushes for harsher penalties for illegal child care providers

Associated Press - January 17, 2008 6:14 PM ET

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - A new audit says Missouri officials aren't doing enough to stop people from operating illegal child day care centers.

State Auditor Susan Montee's office released the audit today.

It says current penalties for illegal day care centers are too low to force many violators to change their ways. Auditors also say that inspectors can't be sure that those who are caught don't continue violating the law.

The audit also criticizes state regulations that don't require children of home day care operators to be counted as part of the maximum allowed.

The Department of Health and Senior Services says it's gathering information to determine whether tougher penalties are needed. The department says it will try to change those regulations this year.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

STLMoms: Bedtime Basics

(KTVI - -- In today’s segment, it's a disturbing statistic for any new parent, 2500 sudden infant deaths happen each year in the United States. Now, St. Louis Children's Hospital is launching a campaign called "Bedtime Basics for Babies." Dr. James Kemp is the co-director of the sleep lab at St. Louis Children's Hospital. He joined us on FOX 2 in the Morning.

Click to watch!

Mark your calendars!

SIDS Resources is hosting their first annual 5K in Forest Park this year! May 31, 2008 will be the big day! We'll be looking for volunteers for race day, and participants! More information to follow :)

Registration Form for Strides for SIDS 5K (PDF)
Donation Form for Strides for SIDS 5K (PDF)
Sponsor Form for Strides for SIDS 5K (PDF)
Sponsorship Benefits and Levels for Strides for SIDS 5K (PDF)
Sponsor Letter for Strides for SIDS 5K (.doc)
Volunteer Form for Strides for SIDS 5K (PDF)

Insurance Reminder!

If you have a child in daycare please make sure to check with your daycare provider on whether or not they have the proper liability insurance! Liability insurance in not a licensing requirement in Missouri!!! But, as you can imagine, very important when someone gets hurt - or worse.

If you run a daycare, please be responsible and call your insurance agent and discuss the best way to protect yourself and the children you watch.

View this PDF Child Daycare Associations for more info.

More Info:
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