Inside Iowa's Child Care Rankings After Western Iowa Toddler's Day Care Death

LINN COUNTY, Iowa - On Thursday, an Orange City toddler died of serious head injuries and her child care provider told investigators that she threw the little girl against a floor.

Now Rochelle Sapp, 33, of Orange City is facing charges in the girl's death. Initially, she had told police the little girl had fallen down the stairs but, upon findings that the child's fall was not consistent with Sapp's description, the child care provider admitted to throwing the girl.

A search of the Iowa Department of Human Services website found more than 5,000 licensed child care providers throughout the state. Add in the thousands of unlicensed providers across Iowa to obtain a more complete accounting of people who are open for business to watch children.

The death of the little girl in Orange City on Thursday easily reverberates with nearly every caring parent who has someone else watch their child.

"What if that could have happened to my son," said Misty Davis, who lives in Cedar Rapids with her son, Aiden, 3. "That could have been the actual outcome."

Even with dozens of child care openings listed on Craigslist.org within the past seven days, Davis said finding a daycare center or in-home provider for a young child is nearly impossible.

"For a child under the age of three, it's horrible," said Davis. "For a newborn to (age) one, it's almost impossible. You have to be looking a year ahead."

Davis said that, last fall, she switched to a new, in-home child care provider, one that was closer to her home. One night, Davis said Aiden just wasn't the same.

"I put him in my car," said Davis of that night. "I took him home and made him dinner. He was quiet and I put him to bed and he said, 'Mom, I'm really tired and I'm really, really hot.

"I woke up the next morning and my baby had bruises on him," said Davis.

Davis said that she filed a police report in Cedar Rapids but that investigators told her there was not enough evidence to proceed further. She chose to return Aiden to his previous care provider.

"I'd rather drive that (distance) knowing that he's not going to end up like that again," said Davis.

Coralie Liberko has been licensed to provide child care in Linn County since 1997. She said that she has had dozens of children who grew up in her home, from infants who became toddlers and, eventually, school-aged kids.

"I love them," said Liberko. "They always have a special place in my heart."

When asked about this week's incident in Orange City, Liberko teared up for the loss of a child 300 miles away.

"I just think it's completely heartbreaking," said Liberko. "I feel for the family."

Liberko said, in Iowa, she goes through the thick pile of documents every two years to be one of the 5,000 licensed daycare providers in the state. She has a college education in this field yet Iowa is a state where a high school diploma or G.E.D. is not even required for a lead teacher in a day care center.

Links:
Iowa DHS Child Care Provider Search:
https://ccmis.dhs.state.ia.us/ClientPortal/ProviderSearch.aspx

2013 List of Licensed Iowa Care Providers:
http://www.dhs.state.ia.us/Consumers/Child_Care/LicensingRegs/CCProviderMap.html

Iowa's Rankings In 2013 ChildCare Aware of America Survey:
http://www.naccrra.org/sites/default/files/default_site_pages/2013/wcdb_2013_final_april_11_0.pdf

Full 228-page Report for 2013 ChildCare Aware of America Survey:
http://www.naccrra.org/sites/default/files/default_site_pages/2013/wcdb_2013_final_april_11_0.pdf
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