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Will new child care rules protect Vermont kids? - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Will new child care rules protect Vermont kids?

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Parker Berry Parker Berry
BURLINGTON, Vt. -

One year ago, a little boy walked away from a day care without anyone noticing and ended up drowning in a nearby stream. The death of Parker Berry immediately raised questions about whether Vermont was doing enough to keep kids in day care safe.

Since Parker's death, Vermont has gone from about 15 pages of regulations for home day cares to more than 100 pages. The state says the goal is to keep kids safe, but it's also driving some day cares out of business.

Reporter Julie Kelley: Take me to that final day. 

Erin McKechnie, former child care provider: Oh my goodness. It was gut-wrenching.

Six months after closing her four-star day care in Swanton, McKechnie is overcome thinking about her decision.

"Sometimes I think if I had tried harder," said McKechnie.

Harder to overcome the cost of new regulations like a new fence in her yard which has a stream nearby.

"We have to keep kids safe," said Reeva Murphy, DCF Deputy Commissioner for Child Development. 

Murphy led the state's effort to create the new child care regulations. She says in the six months since the regulations passed, 91 registered home day cares have closed. At the same time, Murphy says 40 new ones have opened under the new rules. So, the state is down about 50 day cares in six months. It's a loss they normally see in a year.

Elsa Bosma is a five-star provider from Puddle Jumpers Childcare who thinks the new regulations have improved the quality of care. 

Kelley: Do you think kids are safer because of these regulations? 

Bosma: I think in some programs definitely. 

"It feels like all of us let a family down," said Murphy.

Murphy is talking about what happened in Waterbury one year ago. No one noticed when 3-year-old Parker Berry walked away from Elephant in the Field Daycare. He fell into Thatcher Brook and died. Under the new regulations, home day cares near hazards like this one must have fences. Murphy says once everyone is in compliance, she doesn't think something like this would happen again.

"This is why regulations matter," said Murphy. 

"It is a lot of extra work, but at the same time, it puts us above that thought, that public thought that, oh, we're just baby-sitters because we're really not," said Colleen Christman from My Home Childcare Program. 

Christman is one of 16 providers who went through a mock visit with licensors. Two of them came to her home day care in South Burlington and used the new regulations to assess it.

"On the provider end, it was great for me to see that no one is out to get you. They're learning. We're learning. We're all trying to get through it together," said Christman.

With the goal of keeping Vermont children in child care safe.

Kelley: Do you think Vermont kids are safer today because of these regulations?

Murphy: I do, yes! 

McKechnie doesn't agree one of her families hasn't found care yet and she says others have struggled to find the same level of care. 

"I have days still where I wonder if maybe I made the wrong choice," said McKechnie. 

WCAX News learned more about the circumstances surrounding Parker's death. Murphy told me some parents had concerns about Elephant in the Field Daycare before Parker died and did not report them to the state.

She says parents play an important role in all of this and should let the state know if they have concerns. The Child Care Consumer line for that is 1-800-649-2642.

Related Stories:

DCF deputy commissioner: Parents failed to report concerns at Waterbury day care

Should Vt. child care centers near water have fences?

Prosecutor: No charges against Waterbury day care in drowning case

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Day care drowning turned over to prosecutor

Toddler's death highlights debate over fences for day cares

Shumlin calls toddler's death 'absolutely unfathomable'

State shuts down day care after toddler dies

Vt. medical examiner: 3-year-old drowned at day care

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