Parents for Safe Child Care

Jaclyn Frank

Family mourns toddler's death

Monday December 5, 2005
Seattle Times staff

Jaclyn Frank was only 17 months old. But her father, Larry Frank, says she had a serenity to her that belied her age. "She was the sweetest, most innocent little girl I've ever known," said Frank.

Now the Eastside family is grieving their loss and grappling with questions about how their daughter came to die at a Bothell day-care home Thursday. 

The little girl was found dead, apparently strangled by the cord of some blinds.

The King County Medical Examiner has ruled the death an accident.

The King County Sheriff's Office is investigating.

The day-care operator did not return a call for comment. But Sunday, she told King 5 TV she had no idea the blinds near a crib the child was in could pose a danger.

The family had been taking the little girl there since May, said Frank.

A fund for the family has been set up at the Bank of America by acquaintances, with donations to the Jaclyn Frank Memorial Fund, Frank said.


Toddler strangles on cords at day care

Published 10:00 p.m., Sunday, December 5, 2005

BOTHELL - The King County Sheriff's Office is investigating the death of an 18-month-old girl strangled by the cords of a window blind at a day care center near Bothell.

The King County medical examiner ruled Jaclyn Frank's death last Thursday an accident. Investigators are trying to determine if there were any suspicious circumstances, Sgt. Mark Toner said.

The state Department of Social and Health Services has indefinitely suspended the license of Julie Norris, who ran the in-home day care center where the girl died.

DSHS spokesman Jeff Weathersby said Norris has been cited for health and safety violations four times in recent years: in 1997 and 2004 for being overcapacity, and again in 2004 for what he described as a "supervisory issue" and for an "environmental issue."

Weathersby did not disclose any details about the citations but told the King County Journal that supervisory violations usually relate to not having enough employees on hand to meet the state-mandated staff-to-child ratio. He said a facility environment violation generally deals with safety or hygiene issues.

If Norris is cleared in a Child Protective Services investigation, Weathersby said, she could reopen her day care.


Parents fight for daycare safety bill

By George Howell
Published: Mar 28, 2007 at 11:05 PM PDT Last Updated: Mar 29, 2007 at 10:48 AM PDT 

"My husband and I were at work, and we received the call that she had stopped breathing on our cell phones," said Jaclyn's mother, Michele Frank. "And by the time that we arrived on the scene, she was pronounced dead."

Since then, Jaclyn's family has been pushing for a new state law named the 'Jaclyn Frank Act'. The law would ban cords from all state-licensed daycare facilities. "Safety needs to be a top priority," said Frank, "and If people don't know what's killing our children, then it's going to happen again." 


State keeps child care violations from parents 

Formal records request required to get information  

The Associated Press
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Updated 10:00 p.m., Thursday, November 22, 2007
By Erin Middlewood and Stephanie Rice

The Columbian

VANCOUVER, Wash. -- Michele Frank did more research than many parents before choosing child care for her daughter, Jaclyn. Frank obtained a list of providers from the state-supported Child Care Resource & Referral Network, visited 22 of them and then made unannounced visits to five. Yet her daughter died in December 2005 at 18 months old, strangled by a window blind cord dangling near a crib at the home child care she chose in Bothell. Frank thinks a state child-care licenser should have identified the cord as a hazard. The case spurred the Legislature to pass a law named for Jaclyn that prohibits unsafe blind cords at child care facilities.

It took The Columbian two years to obtain records on child-care facilities operating in Clark County -- first from the state Department of Social and Health Services and then from the new Department of Early Learning, which took over child-care oversight in 2006. The Columbian filed a total of 14 records requests to the two departments and the state auditor's office, and made two appeals to the attorney general's office.

The state took five months to fulfill one of the requests. Most took 45 to 60 days to fulfill. Then the Department of Social and Health Services and the Department of Early Learning removed from the files the names of parents who had complained about child-care facilities, contrary to a directive from the attorney general's office in response to the newspaper's appeal. The Department of Early Learning became more forthcoming after The Columbian took concerns to the new agency's director, Jone Bosworth, in July. 

Parents have two sources of information on licensed child care: a state-funded referral service and a state Web database of providers -- both nearly useless when it comes to assessing the safety of a facility.

The Child Care Resource & Referral Network offers nothing on a child-care provider's compliance record. A well-meaning parent could be referred by the state-supported service to child-care facilities with a history of health and safety violations.

The state alerts the referral network to stop providing information on child-care providers only after they have been put on probation or have had their licenses suspended.

The Washington State Child Care Resource & Referral Network operates under a contract with the state, yet the network does not have access to the state's database of violations. 

The Department of Early Learning's Web site offers little help. State law requires that the child-care regulatory agency provide on a "publicly accessible Web site all inspection reports and notices of licensing actions, including the corrective measures required or taken" dating back to July 2005.

The Department of Early Learning Web site never attained that level of detail and, in fact, recently removed some information. The Web site previously listed the nature of the offense -- a broad description, such as "supervision," "overcapacity," "discipline" and so on -- but this summer the agency removed the labels. As of now, all parents can find online is the number of violations in a provider's file since 2005.

The Department of Early Learning took the labels off after Rep. Maureen Walsh, R-Walla Walla, met with agency officials to voice providers' concerns. Walsh would like the Department of Early Learning Web site to be "kind of a marketing tool" that lets providers "espouse the virtues and benefits of being at their day care." At the very least, she wants providers to be able to offer statements about violations listed.

The information on violations and complaints is public and parents need it to make good child-care decisions, countered Rep. Ross Hunter, D-Bellevue. A former Microsoft Corp. employee, Hunter serves on the committee that oversees state information technology projects.

"People don't like to have their dirty laundry out in public. I'm sorry, don't create dirty laundry," Hunter said. "This is public data. It wants to be free."

Although the Web site lists a phone number parents can call to ask questions and get more details, it's much more helpful to be able to research several child-care facilities at once online, he said.

To review provider files, parents must submit formal public records requests, a process unfamiliar to most. And when an information request is filed, the state notifies the provider.

"Do you think that's going to create a good working environment for your child in that care?" Hunter asked.  

Other states make it easier for parents to research providers online.

In North Carolina, parents can go to a user-friendly site and find a provider's rating, as well as a detailed history. The site has a guide to understanding how facilities are scored in the categories of staff education, program standards and compliance history.

Department of Early Learning director Bosworth said the agency is moving forward on providing more online information to parents. In December, the department expects to take the intermediate step of adding back labels for valid complaints against providers, along with real-life examples of that type of offense but not the actual details for the listed violation.

Eventually, the Web database will enable parents to search for child care on an interactive map and to click to obtain licensing history. But that will require funding for a new information system, Bosworth said.

"I have a strong belief in transparency," she said. "That's going to be a new approach in business. And we're not there yet."

Earlier this month, her agency selected child-care facilities to test a new voluntary Quality Rating and Improvement System, which would give parents a snapshot of how well a program meets benchmarks. Educational Service District 112's Southwest Washington Child Care Consortium was among the five selected. It has until July 2008 to survey parents about the quality measures they would like to see.

Currently, 12 states have a quality-rating system. Thirty states, including Washington, have one under development.

Some are not optimistic that the quality-rating system will be a cure-all in Washington.

Stu Jacobson of the Bellevue-based Washington Parents for Safe Child Care said as long as the rating system is optional, it won't work: "Who's going to opt out? Every weak program."

Michele Frank, whose daughter died, is also skeptical. "It's a lot of bells and whistles, but I don't think it's going to fix it," Frank said. "What do we have in place that's truly ensuring checks and balances and that parents know what's going on?"  


Parents for Safe Child Care is a 501(c)(3) non-profit