SIDS prevention group outraged by day care death

SEATTLE -- Born on Dec. 8, 2012, Eve Uphold was a beautiful and inquisitive baby girl.

“She was incredibly curious.  You couldn’t hold her against your shoulder.  You had to hold her facing out because she wanted to see everything,” said mother Amanda Uphold.

Like many working couples, Kyle and Amanda looked all over for a reliable day care.  Finally, they decided on First Nest, an in-home operation run by Rhonda Hopson.

“She seemed to transition very well.  She adjusted very easily and things went with the flow,” said Amanda.

But on May 2, the Upholds' lives were turned upside down.  Eve died during her afternoon nap at the day care, a victim of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.  As they looked into the tragedy, investigators found troubling violations of state child care law.

Eve had been swaddled and placed on a loose waterproof pad in an area out of sight of the day care provider who didn’t check in on her for at least an hour, problems Hopson had been warned about before.

“It was obvious through the years that she was spoken to about safe sleep, that people saw unsafe sleep environments and she never changed,” said Krista Cossalter Sandberg, who is with the Northwest Infant Survival & SIDS Alliance.

The news was devastating but soon became even more difficult to understand because this had happened before.  In 2001, Hopson put a 6-month-old boy down for a nap in her own, adult-size bed surrounded by pillows, then left the house.  After that, in spite of repeated violations cited by state inspectors, First Nest continued to operate as a state-licensed facility until after Eve Uphold's death more than 12 years later.

“It seems to be a disregard for human life,” said Aileen Carrell, director of the Northwest Infant Survival & SIDS Alliance.

Carrell’s daughter Lucy died of SIDS in a similar situation.

“It was her first day in day care on December 11, 2001.  Lucy was 3 ½ months old and the daycare provider put her on her tummy to sleep, not on her back,” said Carrell.

Since then, Carrell has been involved in educating parents and day care providers on reducing the risk of SIDS.

“We say ABC -- Alone on their Back in a Crib.  There should be no toys, no pillows, no bumpers and they should be monitored,” Cossalter Sandberg said.

Other things to consider: Rooms should be kept between 65 and 70 degrees; there should be no smoking in the home; pacifiers can be a help and breastfeeding also seems to reduce the risk of SIDS -- all information parents need to discuss with a potential child care professional.

“Just having an interview with your day care provider, asking those questions directly and saying, 'This is what I expect; these are safe sleep practices, and do you understand, and can you please uphold those standards?'” said Carrell.

You can also go on the Department of Early Learning website and click on Child Care Check to look up the inspection history of licensed providers before you make a decision.

Amy Blondin, with the state Department of Early Learning, says keeping kids safe is their primary focus.

“We take every injury or death very seriously and, of course, our hearts go out to families when this happens.  It’s important for us to always be looking at what can be done better in the future,” said Blondin.

The Upholds just hope going public with their loss will help other young families and force the state to do a better job protecting children.

“They failed us.  I trusted that license that came from the Department of Early Learning meant that they were making sure safety was in place and that she was following the guidelines and I didn’t realize that wasn’t the case,” said Amanda.

The peak time during the year when SIDS deaths happen are the cold months between October and February.  Babies between 1 to 6 months of age are most susceptible.

Here is a link to learn more about SIDS prevention and good questions you should ask any day care provider before making a decision on where to send your child.