• Parents prompt legislative study after baby dies while sleeping in car seat

    By: Clay Loney

    Updated:

    Quick Facts:

    • Interim legislative study on safe sleep standards held at the State Capitol on November 3
    • Study prompted by death of Shepard Dodd, Oklahoma child that died before he was three months old
    • Dodd suffocated to death because he was left to sleep in a car seat while in the care of a licensed, in-home child care
    • Department of Human Services previously told child care provider not to allow babies to sleep in car seats because of sudden infant death system
    • Babies should not be allowed to nap in car seats, bouncers, swings or other “sitting devices.” 

    Tuesday at the state Capitol, lawmakers were among those hearing Shepard Dodd's story and the call for change to protect children across Oklahoma.

    Dodd was a happy, healthy baby with bright eyes and a talker.

    His family hasn’t been able to hold their baby since April 6. Now his ashes are on the mantle about the fireplace.

    "Part of our life has been destroyed," said Derek Dodd, Shepard’s father.
     
    "And it's irreparable. Babies are not replaceable,” said his mother, Ali.
     
    Their son died in a car seat, another child’s car seat, when an in-home day care provider let Shepard sleep in it.

    That happened even though less than two weeks before a Department of Human Services report shows the provider asked and was specifically told "infants are not to be placed in a car seat to sleep” because of the risk of sudden infant death syndrome.

    Wrapped in a Velcro swaddle, Shepard wiggled and sank down until his chin was resting on his chest, collapsing his trachea, and he suffocated.

    Those details, though, were not intentionally revealed.

    "They accidentally published a first responder's (report) -- that took down her statement. And that's the only reason we know what happened to Shepard,” said Ali.

    But, just a few days later the report disappeared.

    "And then I -- there's no kind way of saying that -- I lost my mind -- and I was calling the fire department, the police department, DHS, I was saying, ‘where did this go? This was the only thing that said what happened to my kid -- where did it go?,’ " said Ali.

    "It's a very, very powerful, tragic story,” said state Sen. Kay Floyd.

    It prompted Floyd to call for an interim legislative study to examine safe sleep standards in Oklahoma:

    What child care providers are required to do and must not do.

    The consequences for violations.

    And parent’s right to know who's taking care of their children.

    “I am not after day care centers, day care owners, day care workers. I am not after DHS. I am just after the facts. I just want to find out what happened and have everybody at the table looking at it and see if there's some way to do it better,” said Floyd.

    In 2009, the Legislature passed a law creating Joshua's List, a public registry of people restricted from working in a child care facility.
     
    It specifically includes people who have "had a child care facility license that has been denied or revoked for incidents on or after July 1, 2010." 
     
    FOX23’s Clay Loney entered the name of the Dodd's child care provider, whose license was reportedly revoked 16 weeks after Shepard died, but, there's no record of her.

    "None. It's gone. She's no longer licensed so it literally looks like she's never been licensed in the state of Oklahoma,” said Ali.

    The Dodds are not letting this go away, and neither is their 5-year-old son Presley, who misses his baby brother.

    "Yeah, he brought him up this morning," said Ali.
     
    “He'll, he'll randomly say, ‘hey, can we say a prayer about Shepard tonight?’” said Derek.

    "The woman who was taking care of your child -- or not -- what would be justice for her, in your eyes?" asked Loney.
     
    "Justice. There won't be justice ever,” said Derek.
     
    "We don't get our child back,” said Ali.

    The Dodds want to see mandatory safe sleep education for child care providers in Oklahoma.

    Here’s more information: 

    SEVEN THINGS EVERY PARENT NEEDS TO KNOW ABOUT SAFE SLEEP 

    When using infant sitting or carrying devices 

    1.  Do not leave children unsupervised (awake or asleep);
    2. Never leave children in a car seat with unbuckled or partially buckled straps;
    3.  Car seats should never be placed on a soft or unstable surface;
    4.  Infants in bouncers, strollers, and swings may be able to maneuver into positions that could compromise their airway; straps on these devices may not prevent infants from getting into hazardous situations;
    5.  Ensure that infants cannot twist their heads into soft bedding or slump forward in a seat; restraints should be used according to manufacturer’s instructions;
    6. Slings are particularly hazardous because of their design and the ease with which an infant’s airway can be collapsed. If used, the infant’s face should be “visible and kissable” at all times; and
    7.  Do not place more than one infant together in a swing meant for one infant. 

    Source:  Study by Erich K. Batra, MD, Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, and colleagues from the US Consumer Product Safety Commission and Children’s National Medical Center.

    Information on infants sleep: http://www.jpeds.com/content/JPEDSBatra

    More information on car seat safety: http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/infant-and-toddler-health/in-depth/car-seat-safety/art-20043939

    Next Up: