State Senate bills push for stronger penalties for day care deaths

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Two senate bills that push for stronger penalties imposed on day care centers who have children die in their care passed through a House committee and are heading to the floor for a full vote.

The bills were introduced by West Michigan lawmakers Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker and Sen. Dave Hildenbrand. If the bills become law, day care providers would face a felony charge if a child dies in their care because of state code violations. And depending on the severity of the offense, offenders could get up to 20 years behind bars.

Two of the bills’ biggest advocates are a mother and father who lost their 3-month-old son a year ago. Zach Fales picked up his son Cooper from The Bridges Day Care in Kentwood and discovered his baby was dead when he got home. The medical examiner found evidence that Cooper had died hours earlier at the day care facility.

"The fact is that whatever happened, happened two hours before I got there,” Zach Fales told FOX 17 News Wednesday. “And I was handed a child, a baby that had been gone for 2 hours.”

"When an irresponsible daycare provider chooses not to follow the rules that were put in place to protect the children - and a family loses as a child as a result - the daycare needs to be held accountable," Senator Schuitmaker said.

Fales says he is relieved to see progress being made to hold day care centers responsible. He knows nothing will bring back his son, but hopes the passage of these bills will help others.

"This isn't just a Grand Rapids thing, or a Kent County thing," Fales said. "These bills are going to help protect kids across the entire state."

Senator Schuitmaker expects the bills to become law before summer.

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