Children at risk: Unregulated day care in Virginia

A Washington Post investigation found that 60 children have died in Virginia day cares since 2004.

Circumstances of death:
Sleep-related
Abuse-related
Accident
Illness or natural causes
Unknown circumstances*

Nearly three quarters of the children died in unregulated child-care homes, where providers face no inspections, training or background checks.

The vast majority of children who died in Virginia day cares are under 1 year old.

About half of the children died in sleep-related cases.

Abuse cases accounted for nearly a quarter of deaths in unregulated day cares. In licensed day-care facilities, no deaths were linked to abuse.

About the data

In Virginia, there is no central registry of child deaths in unregulated or regulated child-care settings. The Department of Social Services licensing division is aware of deaths only in licensed facilities, which report to the agency. Local Child Protective Services agencies investigate only the deaths in which abuse or neglect is suspected. A recent state study found no record of a review for more than half of sleep-related deaths. Child-fatality review teams affiliated with the State Medical Examiner study only the deaths are reviewed. Local police generally investigate all child deaths, but those records are not centralized.

To identify deaths, The Washington Post obtained 10 years of electronic inspection records from the Department of Social Services.The Post also examined abuse and neglect reports from the state’s Child Protective Services. Records requests were also filed with social-service and police agencies in dozens of localities. Reporters reviewed news reports, court cases, social media and obituaries. The Post excluded fatalities in one-time babysitting scenarios. Read the full article.

* Seven of these cases were classified as sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) or sudden unexpected infant death (SUID), but with no other details publicly available. They could have been sleep-related.

GRAPHIC: Amy Brittain, David S. Fallis, Lazaro Gamio and Katie Park - The Washington Post. Published Aug. 30, 2014.