Valley Mother Lobbies for Childcare Change after Losing Infant

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A Shenandoah Valley mother is about to get a voice on Capitol Hill.

Elly Lafkin lost her 12-week-old daughter last May while the infant was in the hands of an unlicensed daycare provider. Lafkin is pushing for stricter laws she says may prevent a similar tragedy.

She will meet face-to-face with members of Congress this week, asking for legislation mandating tougher background searches - including fingerprint checks - for all care providers.

Lafkin says that in her daughter's case, such a check would have raised a life-saving red flag.

Camden Lafkin's room is just as it was when she was born on Valentine's Day last year. Two months later, when maternity leave ran out, Elly Lafkin and her husband, Cameron, searched for just the right place for their baby.

"We thought we had done everything right. We received recommendations. We asked for references, we checked references. We ran what we thought was an efficient background check," said Elly Lafkin.

But that background check didn't catch her care provider's aliases, which would have revealed a criminal history. And, Lafkin says, random inspections of the home might have spotted evidence of illegal drug use.

But none of that happened because the Lafkins used an unlicensed care facility. It's a common choice, especially in rural Virginia, but one that does not require first aid or CPR training, ensure safe sleeping techniques or limit a caregiver's burden.

"It's unrealistic to believe that one person could care for six children, plus as many of their own children, at any given time," Lafkin said.

Camden's care provider found her unresponsive after a nap last May 17, and efforts to revive the baby failed.

Lafkin's pain has become resolve, to see tougher federal laws over daycare licensing and background checks. She'll spend three days in Washington, lobbying with the nonprofit group Child Care Aware.

"We're hoping that the policymakers will see how pertinent that these laws need to be changed immediately. Children are suffering," Lafkin said.

Over the next couple of months, Lafkin will help teach classes on safe sleeping techniques for newborns.

Rockingham County's commonwealth's attorney said that the investigation into Camden's death continues.