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State Seeks One Year Probation For Center

A Webster Groves, Missouri child care facility cited for multiple violations after an infant died during a nap with a weighted blanket has been notified of a state effort to place it on probation by child care regulators.


Webster Child Care Center, a facility licensed by Missouri to care for up to 165 children, was notified Nov. 26 of the state’s intent to impose a yearlong probation on its license. The attempted censure follows an October state regulatory report that found seven rule violations after the death of 7-month-old Owen Haber on Aug. 21.

Those violations included failure to provide “constant care and supervision” for infants and toddlers; failure to “be alert to the various needs of the child”; and failure of the director to “monitor and manage the facility’s daily program.”

The state report also said Owen’s parents were never informed of the repeated use of a weighted blanket on their son nor consented to its use.

Sleep safety experts oppose the use of any blanket with a napping infant to reduce the risk of a sudden sleep death. Those concerns are amplified with weighted blankets, which are typically used as a therapeutic tool to soothe older children with sensory integration issues.

Lisa Jones, the center’s director, said that the center had appealed the probation, and she would not comment further pending an administrative hearing.

The probation would impose increased monitoring by state regulators and extra training.

The probation would not prohibit the use of weighted blankets, because the state does not ban any type of blanket with napping infants in licensed child cares. But it does require detailed standards for their use on children under 36 months. The center would have to post its probation notice in a publicly visible area.

Owen’s parents, Aaron and Anna Haber, would not comment on the state action nor their child’s death. But they said Friday that they were troubled that more than three months after his death, the state had yet to post the probation notice and the rule violations on a state database designed to inform parents about child care quality.

The Department of Health and Senior Services “Show Me Child Care” database shows Webster Child Care Center in full compliance with state standards as of April.

While not online, the public can visit local state child care regulatory offices to review them.

“Parents potentially rely on that information online, and the only other way to find that information is to go to the local (regulatory) office and set up an appointment,” Anna Haber said. “On so many levels there’s just a lack of transparency, and it doesn’t protect the children, it protects the child care center.”

According to the state regulatory report, on Aug. 20 caregivers at the center said they noticed Owen rolled onto his abdomen during his nap, but they did not reposition him to his back.

He was found not breathing and lying on his abdomen a few hours later. He was resuscitated but died the next day at St. Louis Children’s Hospital.

The report said police had determined the blanket weighed 4 pounds, 8 ounces.

The St. Louis County Medical Examiner’s office ruled the cause of death as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome — or SIDS — and one physician in the state report said the blanket was probably not a factor. But in a previous reportage by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch report, a pediatrician and researcher on infant sleep safety said using weighted blankets on infants was an “awful idea.”

The state report said Owen’s direct caregivers said they had used the weighted blanket on the child previously. Regulators also said Owen was not properly supervised during naptime.

Jones, the director of the child care center, sent a 13-page written response to regulators in early November disputing the supervision claim and alleging numerous inaccuracies in the state’s findings.

The center’s response did not dispute the use of a weighted blanket on Owen nor his parents’ lack of consent. But the center did want the state to strike from its report any mention of other weighted blankets purchased for the infant and toddler rooms, arguing they were “completely irrelevant” to Owen’s death.

In the end, regulators opted to revise just one item in the report: They corrected Jones’ last name in one inaccurate reference, a state spokesman said.




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