Two bills that supporters say will make parents feel their kids are being properly taken care of in child care facilities are nearing the finish line at the Hawaii Legislature.

Senate Bill 511 and Senate Bill 522 were approved unamended by the House Finance Committee on Tuesday, the last committee hearing for the measures.

The bills, which are championed by the Hawaii Women’s Legislative Caucus, now await House floor votes and possible amendments later this month in order to be sent up to Gov. David Ige’s office for his consideration.

Rep Matthew LoPresti Finance committee meeting Capitol. 8 march 2017
Rep. Matthew LoPresti, center, with fellow House Finance Committee members Isaac Choy and Bert Kobayashi, helped pass two bills on child care facilities. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Civil Beat has reported on allegations of irregularities at some facilities, which are regulated by the state, that may have resulted in harm to infants.

SB 511 calls for the following:

Requires the Department of Human Services to post on its website, reports of child care facility inspections beginning with inspections occurring on Jan. 1, 2019, and suspected or actual complaint violations, including DHS’s findings and corrective actions. Appropriates funds to implement and comply with the reporting requirements for child care facilities. 

The cost hasn’t been specified.

SB 522 calls for this:

Requires Department of Human Services registered or licensed child care facilities to: 1) place any child less than a year old on the child’s back to sleep; 2) discuss the Safe Sleep Policy with the child’s parent or legal guardian before the child is enrolled in the facility; 3) complete training in safe sleep practices; and 4) report the death of a child, employee, or household member, and any illness or injury received at the facility to DHS within one working day of occurrence

Pankaj Bhanot, director of DHS, acknowledged in his testimony the desire to prevent “the tragic deaths associated with sudden unexpected infant deaths and sudden infant death syndrome.”

However, Bhanot said legislation is not needed, as DHS has already amended its own rules regarding the issue.

But Clarice Kuroiwa of Ewa Beach wrote in her testimony about her son Triton Forsyth, who she said died in 2014 while in the care of a state-licensed child care provider.

Putting infants to sleep on their back has been known to reduce the risk of SIDS for decades now and you would think it is common sense to put a baby to sleep on their back in a crib or playpen with no pillows, stuffed animals or anything that could cause them to get caught up, suffocate or overheat,” she stated.

Kuroiwa said that she hoped the passage of SB 522 would mean other families would not have to experience the pain her family went through.

SB 522 received a lot of similar testimony, some of it nearly identical in wording, suggesting that it was part of a form letter. The same kind of testimony was received for SB 511.

But the latter bill also had the support of Cynthia King, whose son Wiley Muir died “under suspicious circumstances” in 2014 in a state-licensed day care provider run by Therese Manu-Lee.

King, the subject of several Civil Beat stories, wrote, “Parents sought her out and trusted this person because she held a state license, and they believed that there were safeguards in place to prevent her from committing fraud, and putting the lives of their children at risk. Despite complaints about her fraudulent behavior being reported to DHS, her license was reinstated once the investigation regarding Wiley’s death was closed.”

King concluded: “As a result, parents continued to entrust their children and money to her care.”

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