Family Working to Pass Legislation After Daughter's Death

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MCGAHEYSVILLE, Va. (WHSV) -- Nearly two years ago, the Lafkin family faced what no parents should have to, having their 3-month-old daughter die.

Elly and Cameron Lafkin's day started like every other day. Cameron dropped off their 3-month-old daughter, Camden, also known as Cami, at a private, in-home day care. Just hours into the day, Cami stopped breathing.

Cameron returned to the sitter's home in Massanutten and rode in the ambulance to the hospital. Elly met them there.

"I didn't know what was going on still at that point so I just asked Cameron, "Is Camden okay, is Camden okay". He just grabbed and hugged me really tight and said 'no,' she's not," said Elly.

Cami died from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS, in May 2012. At that moment, on that day, the Lafkin's life was changed forever.

A change that they now hope will change Virginia law. A routine death investigation followed; however, that's when the case took a twist.

Investigators found meth in the sitter's home. The investigation also revealed the day care provider was a convicted felon and had changed her name several times.

"It was a whole bunch of lies that just kept spiraling and spiraling. It got to the point where everything that she told was a lie. There wasn't an ounce of truth in anything that she told us about herself, or her day care or her lifestyle," said Lafkin.

Grief turned to disbelief and anger. The couple became frustrated that they were fooled into believing the day care provider was trustworthy.

The couple created Cami's Campaign and joined forces with Child Care Aware of Virginia.

Together they pushed for a new law, which would require in-home day care providers to submit to a fingerprint background check.

"Anyone can change their last name. As unfortunately we found out with Camden's child-care provider that had five aliases names, but nobody can change their fingerprints," said Lafkin.

The Lafkins then turned to the Virginia General Assembly for help. The idea received overwhelming support from both the House and Senate. Delegate Ben Cline is one of its supporters, "As a parent of children in day care right now, it's definitely a concern for me who is around my child on a regular basis and what their background might be," explained Cline.

Carri Bardhoshi, who was not Cami's provider, operates a private, in-home day care in Bridgewater; however, she works closely with her kids the entire time, from drawing on a blackboard, going down the slide, to putting puzzles together. She supports the idea of a fingerprint background check.

"When parents are looking for perspective child care providers, they are not only looking for someone that's going to provide quality care to their child but also someone that they can trust and give them peace of mind while they are at work," said Bardhoshi.

Kristy Baugher takes her 2-year-old daughter to Bardhoshi's day care. She also supports a fingerprint background check, "It was helpful to feel like you had a referral, but each time we went down that road we felt like we were just going to have to take leap of faith and trust and we didn't want to do that with our 8-month-old daughter's life," said Baugher.

The Lafkins don't want families to have to do that either. The couple makes weekly visits their daughter's grave at the Mount Olivet Cemetery in McGaheysville. They sit by the grave with their new daughter, Caliann, who is a year old. They decorate they grave and share memories of Cami's short life.

"If it can happen to us after we think we did all our homework, then I know it can happen to other parents. So I think education and knowledge and increasing the safety standards in child care and background fingerprints I know will really increase the quality of childcare and the peace of mind of working parents," said Lafkin.

While the sun sets on Cami's life, they hope her legacy lasts forever.

The 2014 bill created a task force that would develop a plan to implement the new background checks. The General Assembly will then consider making it law in 2015, it will be known as Cami's Law.


Cami just after being born Credit: Lafkin family