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After son's daycare death, family pushes criminal penalties for negligent providers

Dec 7, 2016

A mom whose son died at a Grand Rapids daycare last year has been visiting Lansing, pushing state lawmakers to create criminal penalties in similar cases.

Investigators found the daycare where Mary Fales’ 3-month-old Cooper died had violated several rules, particularly around safe infant sleep.

Fales testified before state lawmakers in April, 2016.

When my husband picked the boys up from daycare, our daycare provider already had Cooper in his car seat, hat on, buckled up, blanket over his legs with the car seat cover closed. It was an absolutely frigid winter day and my husband loaded everyone into the car for the 10 min drive home. We didn’t discover that Cooper was deceased until they arrived home about 6:10pm. We tried CPR and paramedics did everything they could to save him. The whole terrifying scene played out in front of our two other young sons. It wasn’t until after the autopsy that we found out that Cooper actually died at least 2 hours before we picked him up from daycare, sometime before 4:10pm.

The daycare provider's state license was revoked. But the prosecutor told Fales existing law didn’t allow him to bring charges against the provider. That’s why Fales asked lawmakers to draft the bills.

“It seems like it would be unnecessary, and that’s why we were so shocked and surprised when no criminal charges were brought,” Fales said. She says they’ve met several other families since the incident who have had similar experiences.

For the last year-and-a-half Fales has been working to get bills passed that she says will send a message to providers about how serious it is to follow existing rules. The bills create criminal penalties for a licensing violation that results in a child’s death. She wants lawmakers to pass it this month.

“It’s a hard conversation to have, and that’s what’s so frustrating about it, is that it seems like a no brainer,” she said.

The state senate passed the bills in March 2016. Gideon D’Assandro, Press Secretary for House Speaker Kevin Cotter, said the bills are not being held up for any reason and are on a normal schedule.

“The exact timing of a vote is up to the majority floor leader,” he said.

Requests for comment from House Majority Floor Leader Aric Nesbitt were not immediately returned.