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New law proposed after child's death at Houston-area day care

HOUSTON – A Houston lawmaker has filed a bill that could bring greater scrutiny to day cares across Texas. State Rep. Ana Hernandez filed the bill following a mother’s more than yearlong quest to uncover how her son died after being left at a day care in northwest Harris County.

“I wanted to know the truth,” Shawna Diaz said.

That desire and a mother's love put Diaz on a path to the state Legislature.

“I'm hoping, praying (in) 2019, we can have this bill passed,” Diaz said.

In November 2016, Diaz's 2-month-old son, Shane, was happy, healthy and smiling when he was taken to the Bibs N' Cribs day care off Jones Road.

“At the time, when I expected you to care for my child, I wanted you to care for my child as if I would have,” Diaz said.

Diaz then received a call from day care staff that her son was found unresponsive after he was put down for a nap. Shane was rushed to the hospital, but he went without oxygen for too long.

“I was angry, I was sad, I was confused,” Diaz said.

An autopsy, as well as investigations by the Harris County Sheriff's Office and the state, concluded Shane died from sudden infant death syndrome.

“They investigated, they closed it, they found no wrongdoing whatsoever. That was the end of it,” Diaz said.

That conclusion wasn't good enough for Diaz, who then hired Houston attorney Joe Alexander to push for more answers.

“I was prepared to give her the file back. We worked for a year, and there's nothing we can do,” Alexander said.

However, Alexander decided to take one final step and depose the day care's director and her mother.

“I can just tell you my jaw dropped to the ground when I heard that testimony,” Alexander said.

During the deposition, stories changed from Shane being put to his sleep on his back to being put down for a nap on his stomach. The Texas Administrative Code requires child care facilities to place infants not yet able to turn themselves over in a face-up sleeping position. There were also conflicting accounts of who was actually watching Shane before a problem was noticed.

The depositions prompted the Sheriff's Office and state investigators to reopen their cases. The state ruled Shane became “unresponsive as a result of the sleeping position.” Other findings included “neglectful supervision” and that “staff was not truthful to licensing staff about the infant’s sleeping position which resulted in the child becoming unresponsive.”

 

 

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Bib and Cribs Day Care Investigation Letter (PDF)
Bib and Cribs Day Care Investigation Letter (Text)

 

State officials said the day care surrendered its child care license and closed its' doors. It took nearly two years for all of this to come to light.

“It shouldn't be that hard to find out what happened to your child,” Alexander said.

Diaz said one thing could have prevented such a long and torturous search for the truth: cameras. She said cameras could have captured how Shane was supervised the day he died. Diaz said her son’s day care did have cameras, but she was later told the cameras were turned off during the day.

“I was told because they made too much noise, which is ridiculous,” Diaz said. “They had them installed only to see if somebody was stealing diapers and formula.”

This point bring us back to Diaz's path to the state Legislature. She and Alexander are pushing for change.

“As a mother of a 6-year-old boy, I mean, I don't want this to happen to any other family,” Hernandez said.

Hernandez recently filed House Bill 459, which will require day cares to not only have cameras, but also make sure the cameras are on and recording when children are being care for.

 

 

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House Bill 459 (PDF)
House Bill 459 (Text)

 

“When you have that footage and you don't have to rely on 'he said, she said,' but you actually have that footage, I think (that) helps everybody involved,” Hernandez said.