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4-Month-old dies on his very first day of day care

One of the parenting milestones that will always stick with me was when I sent my first son off to day care at 11 months old. This was a milestone for me and not for him, that’s for sure. I was literally sick over the thought of leaving him in another person’s care so I could work for a few hours.

Many working parents feel this way, and many a working parent has a tough time finding reliable childcare. So far, my experience using a church day care and a licensed in-home day care has been good and excellent, respectively. Sadly, 41-year-old Amber Towndrow, the mother of 4-month-old Karl Towndrow, was not so lucky. Baby Karl died on his first day at an unlicensed day care facility in New York City.

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Karl was apparently being watched at SoHo Child Care with 14 other children even though a licensed day care can only watch a maximum of 12 children to meet city regulations. After he was put down for his midday nap, Karl was reportedly found unresponsive when day care workers tried to wake him for a visit from his mother. Day care workers and emergency responders made attempts to resuscitate him, but Karl was pronounced dead at the hospital shortly after.

Day care owner Maryellen Strautmanis has said that she fed Karl at 10:30 a.m. with a bottle of milk left by his mother. Strautmanis tried to burp Karl, but he was still fussy. She put him down for a nap in a bassinet at 11:45 a.m., and he quieted 10 minutes later. When Strautmanis checked on the baby at 12:10 p.m., she could not wake him and saw that his lips were blue. Strautmanis did attempt CPR, with coaching from a 911 dispatcher over the phone, but she was not trained in the procedure. Karl’s cause of death is still being determined.

It would be easy to point fingers here, but Towndrow was a concerned mother, just like the rest of us. She didn’t dump her baby at an unlicensed day care because she didn’t care — finding good, affordable childcare remains a huge concern for American moms. According to the Center for American Progress, the annual cost of child care for an infant in a child care center is higher than a year’s tuition at the average four-year public college in most states. Often moms (and dads) take chances on unlicensed spaces that they can actually afford!

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From the outside, baby Karl’s death looks like the kind of tragedy that could happen to anyone, but there were a few big red flags leading up to the event that parents can be on the lookout for. This day care was unlicensed. It was overcrowded. The owner was not CPR certified. It’s entirely possible that this baby’s death may have been prevented if Strautmanis was trained to react and resuscitate in an emergency.

Baby Karl’s death is unfortunate in so many more ways than one. I know firsthand that child care is expensive and hard to come by, but this story really drives the point home for me. There’s a reason that day cares have to jump through hoops to get licenses to care for your children. Parents, please do your research and go with your gut: Always check a child care provider’s licensing and references. Leaving your child at an unlicensed day care is never worth the risk.

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