Story Summary

Two babies die at Seattle in-home day care

Parents say the state failed to protect their baby, who died this year at the in-home day care called First Nest in Seattle.  Another baby had previously died there, but the day care was still open and operating.

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SEATTLE — Putting a baby to sleep may seem simple, but if done wrong infants are at great risk of SIDS, or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

Kyle and Amanda Uphold’s baby girl Eve died in May 2013 at First Nest, a licensed in-home day care in Seattle, during her afternoon nap.  The state found the provider, Rhonda Hopson negligent because she swaddled Eve, put her in a portable crib with a loose waterproof pad and left her unattended for more than an hour.  When the provider finally checked on Eve, she was rolled on her face and not breathing.

“We believe it was preventable.  If she was in a safer sleep environment and monitored like she was supposed to be…,” said Kyle Uphold.

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Eve Uphold died of SIDS while in a Seattle day care. (Photo courtesy of Uphold family)

In 2001, Barbara Hazzard’s baby boy Graham also died in Rhonda Hopson’s care.

“When I first heard of Eve’s death, I felt a tremendous amount of guilt that had we done something more, Eve’s death could have been prevented,” said Hazzard.

Hopson put baby Graham to sleep in her adult bed on his side, surrounded by pillows and left the house.

“No one had followed up with us and said, ‘Were you aware your child was being placed on an adult bed for napping?’  We were not aware of that,” said Hazzard.

Q13 FOX News brought this story to state Rep. Ruth Kagi, D-Lake Forest Park, and she has drafted not one but two bills to better protect children.  The first, HB 2165 requires a child fatality review any time there is a death in a licensed day care.  A panel of experts would then make recommendations on policy changes and the report would be made public and posted online.

“I personally, after reviewing this case and looking at deaths in licensed child care facilities, found that over half of them are SIDS deaths, so it is a life and death issue,” said Kagi.

Kagi decided to draft another bill after seeing the Q13 FOX News story.  HB 2695 would revoke a provider’s license after a second sleep-related safety violation.

“One violation is one too many.  One incident of a provider failing to comply can result in a child’s death,” said Erin McCann of the Office of the Family and Children’s Ombuds.

If this law were in place already, Hopson would have been shut down years ago.  We took a look at Hopson’s licensing history file and over the years, found repeated sleep-related violations.  In March 2004, Hopson put a 3 month-old baby to sleep in a car seat in her bedroom.  The Department of Early Learning inspector told her that was not allowed because it restricts a baby’s airway, making it harder to breathe and increasing the risk for SIDS.

In Hopson’s own parent handbook she has a “napping” section that said “all infants will be napped on their back, in a crib to reduce risk of SIDS”, but it’s clear that did not happen.

During inspections, documents show Hopson would get “defensive and angry” when asked about an  unapproved bedroom where she was putting babies to nap out of her line of sight.  In 2005, we saw another note that Hopson had been using a small room off the main day care space for sleeping that was not approved.

“The licensors were saying, ‘Hey there’s a problem here and we’re seeing this’ — but no one was taking action with that information,” said Kyle Uphold.

In July 2008 a licensor again noted that infants were being swaddled and put to sleep in a dark room to sleep.  The supervisor reminded Hopson that the babies must nap in the main child care room where they could be easily observed.  The inspector wrote that Hopson “did not state that she will comply” and recommended that this topic continue to be discussed further with her and monitored during regular licensing contacts.  Four months later, a supervisor found Hopson still hadn’t complied.

“I felt like, with our provider, there was no real consequence for years and years and that she didn’t take it seriously.  Why would she?  There were no repercussions,” said Amanda Uphold.

Aileen Carroll is the director of the Northwest Infant Survival and SIDS Alliance and she, too, lost a child to SIDS in a licensed day care.  Her baby girl Lucy died when she was 3 months old during a nap.  The provider in that case put Lucy to sleep on her stomach.

“I think it’s unacceptable.  I think that there is a problem in our system for not holding people responsible who say they’re going to take care of other people’s children,” said Carroll.

Since her daughter’s death, Carroll has fought to educate parents and providers on the importance of safe sleep.

At a bill hearing in Olympia earlier this month, the owner of all KinderCare facilities in Washington opposed the bill, saying it goes too far.

“We do believe the 2 strikes you’re out is a bit problematic.  This would be the first incident in the United States where you would have an automatic revocation,” said David Foster.

Many feel the law is needed and that sleep related violations are a broad problem.  We requested the case files for day cares in Washington with the most complaints.

The Department of Early Learning visited Aunt Bee’s Honeycomb day care in Richland 18 times in the past three years and each visit found serious infractions.  On at least two occasions they found babies sleeping unsupervised in cribs.

HB 2165 has already passed the state House of Representatives, 93-5.  HB 2695 is still in the House for committee review.

SEATTLE — Putting a baby to sleep may seem simple, but if done wrong infants are at great risk of SIDS, or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.   Since 2000, 36 babies have died in licensed day cares in Washington and in more than half of those cases, SIDS was the cause of death.

eve3In May 2013, 4-month-old Eve Uphold died during her afternoon nap at First Nest, a licensed in-home day care in Seattle run by a woman named Rhonda Hopson.

In 2001, Graham Hazzard, a 6-month-old baby boy, died of SIDS in Hopson’s home day care.  Hopson put that child to sleep on his side, in her own adult bed surrounded by pillows and left the house.  In Eve Uphold’s case, Hopson swaddled Eve, put in in a portable crib with a loose waterproof pad, and left her unattended for more than an hour.  All violated state child care laws.

On five separate visits over the years, Department of Early Learning inspectors repeatedly told Hopson not to put children to sleep in a dark, unapproved room in her home where she could not keep an eye on them, but she apparently didn’t comply.

Q13 FOX News brought this story to state Rep. Ruth Kagi, D-Lake Forest Park, who has drafted two bills to better protect children in day care.  The first, HB 2165 would require a child fatality review anytime there is a death in a licensed day care.  A panel of experts would take a look at what happened and recommend policy changes.

The second bill, HB 2695 would revoke a provider’s license after two repeated sleep-related safety violations.

“If there’s no change, then there has to be some sort of real consequence, and I felt like, for our provider, there was no real consequence for years and years.  She didn’t take it seriously and why would she? There were no repercussions,” said Amanda Uphold, Eve’s mother.

The state found Hopson negligent in Eve’s death, but she was never criminally charged.  The Upholds are now suing the state and the provider over what happened.

Wednesday on Q13 FOX News at 9 and 10 p.m., hear more from the Upholds and two other families that have lost children in day cares, as well as learn more about the systemic problem with non-compliance on this sleep issue across the state.

OLYMPIA — Walking through the state Capitol, Kyle and Amanda Uphold prepared to testify in favor of a bill created after the death of their baby girl Eve.

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Amanda and Kyle Uphold testify in favor of day care bill before a state House committee Thursday, Jan. 16, 2014. (KCPQ-TV)

We were the first to bring you Eve’s story, and shared it with state Rep. Ruth Kagi, D-Shoreline, who in turn drafted House Bill 2165.  It will require a formal child fatality review of Eve’s death and any others that occur in licensed child care in Washington.

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Kyle Uphold holding his daughter Eve, who later died of SIDS in a Seattle day care.

“The gravity of it didn’t hit until we were on our way here.  That’s when I realized this is real,” said Kyle Uphold.

On May 2, 2013, Kyle and Amanda’s baby, Eve, who was almost 5-months-old, died at her licensed in-home day care in Seattle during her afternoon nap.

Eve’s death was ruled SIDS, or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, but a state investigation found the day care provider, Rhonda Hopson, was negligent.

“She was swaddled and placed on her back in a pack-and-play that had a water-proof covering on it that wasn’t tightly fitted.  When she was found, the pad was crumpled up.  She also was left unattended for about an hour,” said Amanda Uphold.

All those acts violated state child care laws.  We requested Hopson’s licensing file and found another baby died of SIDS in her care in 2001.  In that case, documents showed that she put the 6-month-old boy to sleep in her own adult bed surrounded by pillows and left the house.  That child’s parents came to testify at the hearing as well.

“It didn’t occur to us to question or challenge the circumstances, or the particular day care provider.  She had taken care of our older son Noah and we felt like she was a member of our family,” said Andy Hazzard.

“When I first learned of Eve’s death, I felt a tremendous amount of guilt, as though had we done something more perhaps her death would have been preventable,” said Barbara Hazzard.

The Hazzard family says there was no formal review of their son Graham’s death and they were even unaware he had been napping in an adult bed.  Afterwards, Hopson went on to rack up dozens of safety violations, many which were sleep related, over the next 12 years that were not corrected.

“It is not only important to understand what happened on May 2nd but what happened on March 24, 2004 or July 22, 2008, or December 12, 2012, when the Department of Early Learning cited multiple violations at their unannounced visits that were ultimately the exact actions that led to the death of our Eve,” said Amanda Uphold.

This new legislation, called the Eve Uphold Act, will require a formal fatality review of her death as well as any others that occur in licensed child care.

“We need to bring in the people who know about SIDS, bring in licensors, outside experts and really look at what happened, what was wrong and change our policies,” said Kagi.

The Upholds hope this is just the starting point for many policy changes to keep children safer in licensed day care.

“I’m thinking if Eve was here, I would want her to know these people are all here because of her.  It didn’t happen for no reason and we can have some sort of change come out of it.  It’s rocked our world and it will always, but we don’t want this to happen to anyone else,” said Amanda.

The House Committee on Early Learning & Human Services held a hearing on the bill Thursday and will vote on it next week,. The measure will move through the House before making its way to the Senate.  This legislative session is 60 days so a final vote must come before mid-April.

SEATTLE — It has been eight months since Amanda and Kyle Uphold lost their baby girl, Eve.  She was just 4-months-old when she died at her licensed in-home day care in Seattle.

“I trusted that license that came from the (state) Department of Early Learning, that they were making sure safety was in place and that she was following the guidelines — and I didn’t realize that wasn’t the case,” said Amanda Uphold.

eve3The King County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled Eve’s cause of death was SIDS, or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.  After an investigation, the Department of Social and Health Services found that Eve’s day care provider, Rhonda Hopson, was negligent.

Hopson swaddled Eve, put her on top of a loose waterproof pad in this portable crib in an unapproved corner of her basement and left her alone for more than an hour.  All those acts violated state child care laws.

“Here it’s very clear there wasn’t an attentiveness to this facility, to really make sure they were doing things correctly and following protocol to make sure children were safe,” said Lincoln Beauregard, the Upholds’ attorney.

Q13 FOX News requested Hopson’s licensing history file and what was found was alarming.  In 2001, another baby died of SIDS in her home.  In that case, she put the baby to sleep in her own adult bed surrounded by pillows and left the house.

Over the next 12 years, Hopson racked up dozens of safety violations, many which weren’t corrected, yet she was allowed to continue watching children.  We shared Eve’s story with state Rep. Ruth Kagi, D-Shoreline.

“There needs to be corrective action or they shouldn’t continue to operate because children can die and that is clearly what Eve’s case has shown us,” said Kagi.

Kagi chairs the committee that oversees the Department of Early Learning.  That is the state agency that licenses all day cares in Washington.  Hearing about Eve’s story has spurred her into action.

“It has made me really think about what we should do differently and how we do that in a thoughtful way,” said Kagi.

After watching our story, Kagi drafted legislation that will now require a formal child fatality review of Eve’s death, and any others that occur in licensed day cares in Washington.

“We need to bring in the people who know about SIDS, bring in licensors, outside experts and really look at what happened, what was wrong and change our policies,” said Kagi.

Out of that fatality review committee will come recommendations on what other policies or state laws should change.  Kagi would like to see a swift consequence if a provider does not comply with safe sleep practices.

“I, personally, after reviewing this case and looking at deaths in licensed child care facilities found over half of them are SIDS deaths and it is a life and death issue,” said Kagi.

The Upholds are suing the provider and the state over their child’s death and will be in Olympia Thursday to testify in favor of this legislation.

“To just let it go would be doing Eve a disservice.  If somebody along the way would have stepped up and said, ‘Hey, we need to do something about this’, we would have had a different outcome and Eve still would have been here,” said Amanda Uphold.

Local News
01/15/14

Day care SIDS death leads to new legislation

SEATTLE — A Q13 FOX News investigation into a baby’s death at a Seattle day care is now grabbing the attention of lawmakers.

In November, we told you about the death of Eve Uphold, a 4-month-old girl who died last May 2 during an afternoon nap at her licensed in-home day care in the Greenwood neighborhood of Seattle.

eve3The King County Medical Examiner’s Office found the cause was SIDS, or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.  A  state investigation by the Department of Social and Health Services ruled the provider, Rhonda Hopson, was negligent.

Investigators found the day of Eve’s death, Hopson swaddled her and put her on top of a loose waterproof pad in a portable crib in an unapproved corner of her basement and left her alone for more than an hour.  All those acts violated state child care laws.

We requested Hopson’s licensing history file and what we found was alarming.  In 2001, another baby died of SIDS in her home.  In that case, she put the baby to sleep in her own adult bed surrounded by pillows and left the house.  Over the next 12 years, Hopson racked up dozens of safety violations.  Many were not corrected, yet she was allowed to continue watching children.

We shared Eve’s story with state Rep. Ruth Kagi, D-Shoreline, who couldn’t believe this day care provider was still in operation.

“We need to assure that providers are following safe sleep practices or their license needs to be suspended.  There needs to be corrective action or they shouldn’t continue to operate because children can die and that is clearly what Eve’s case has shown us,” said Kagi.

Kagi chairs the committee that oversees the Department of Early Learning.  That is the state agency that licenses day cares in the state.  Kagi was so moved by Eve’s story, she drafted new legislation that is being introduced in Olympia on Thursday.   The bill would require a child fatality review of Eve’s death and any others that happen in licensed day care in Washington.

Coming up tonight on Q13 FOX News at 10 p.m., we’ll explain how that process will work, and what more could come out of that fatality review to better protect children in day care.

Local News
11/21/13

SIDS prevention group outraged by day care death

SEATTLE — Born on Dec. 8, 2012, Eve Uphold was a beautiful and inquisitive baby girl.

“She was incredibly curious.  You couldn’t hold her against your shoulder.  You had to hold her facing out because she wanted to see everything,” said mother Amanda Uphold.

eve3Like many working couples, Kyle and Amanda looked all over for a reliable day care.  Finally, they decided on First Nest, an in-home operation run by Rhonda Hopson.

“She seemed to transition very well.  She adjusted very easily and things went with the flow,” said Amanda.

But on May 2, the Upholds’ lives were turned upside down.  Eve died during her afternoon nap at the day care, a victim of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.  As they looked into the tragedy, investigators found troubling violations of state child care law.

Eve had been swaddled and placed on a loose waterproof pad in an area out of sight of the day care provider who didn’t check in on her for at least an hour, problems Hopson had been warned about before.

“It was obvious through the years that she was spoken to about safe sleep, that people saw unsafe sleep environments and she never changed,” said Krista Cossalter Sandberg, who is with the Northwest Infant Survival & SIDS Alliance.

The news was devastating but soon became even more difficult to understand because this had happened before.  In 2001, Hopson put a 6-month-old boy down for a nap in her own, adult-size bed surrounded by pillows, then left the house.  After that, in spite of repeated violations cited by state inspectors, First Nest continued to operate as a state-licensed facility until after Eve Uphold’s death more than 12 years later.

“It seems to be a disregard for human life,” said Aileen Carrell, director of the Northwest Infant Survival & SIDS Alliance.

Carrell’s daughter Lucy died of SIDS in a similar situation.

“It was her first day in day care on December 11, 2001.  Lucy was 3 ½ months old and the daycare provider put her on her tummy to sleep, not on her back,” said Carrell.

Since then, Carrell has been involved in educating parents and day care providers on reducing the risk of SIDS.

“We say ABC — Alone on their Back in a Crib.  There should be no toys, no pillows, no bumpers and they should be monitored,” Cossalter Sandberg said.

Other things to consider: Rooms should be kept between 65 and 70 degrees; there should be no smoking in the home; pacifiers can be a help and breastfeeding also seems to reduce the risk of SIDS — all information parents need to discuss with a potential child care professional.

“Just having an interview with your day care provider, asking those questions directly and saying, ‘This is what I expect; these are safe sleep practices, and do you understand, and can you please uphold those standards?’” said Carrell.

You can also go on the Department of Early Learning website and click on Child Care Check to look up the inspection history of licensed providers before you make a decision.

Amy Blondin, with the state Department of Early Learning, says keeping kids safe is their primary focus.

“We take every injury or death very seriously and, of course, our hearts go out to families when this happens.  It’s important for us to always be looking at what can be done better in the future,” said Blondin.

The Upholds just hope going public with their loss will help other young families and force the state to do a better job protecting children.

“They failed us.  I trusted that license that came from the Department of Early Learning meant that they were making sure safety was in place and that she was following the guidelines and I didn’t realize that wasn’t the case,” said Amanda.

The peak time during the year when SIDS deaths happen are the cold months between October and February.  Babies between 1 to 6 months of age are most susceptible.

Here is a link to learn more about SIDS prevention and good questions you should ask any day care provider before making a decision on where to send your child.

SEATTLE –  When Kyle and Amanda Uphold found out they were pregnant, it was one of the happiest times in their lives.

“It was the first for everybody, the first grandchild on both sides of the family so it was a big celebration,” said Amanda.

When baby Eve arrived on Dec. 8, 2012, the entire family was overjoyed.

eve1“She was so calm and she just looked around and that really was who she was.  She observed everything.  As long as you were there with her holding her or hanging out with her, she was totally content,” said Amanda.

The Upholds both work.  Kyle is a Navy diver, and Amanda an accountant.  They needed day care and searched around online.  They found First Nest, a licensed in-home day care in Seattle’s Greenwood neighborhood run by Rhonda Hopson.

It wasn’t cheap — $1,550 per month — but they interviewed Hopson, checked her references and felt Eve would be safe there.

“She seemed to transition very well.  I didn’t see anything with Eve.  She was fine as far as her temperament and when we picked her up, I didn’t think there was a need to worry,” said Amanda.

But on May 2, when Eve was nearly 5-months-old, the unimaginable happened.  Hopson told investigators that she put Eve down for a nap around 12:50 p.m. in a portable crib in her basement.  Just after 2 p.m., Hopson said she heard the older children talking downstairs and went to check on Eve.  A police report shows she found her face down, not breathing, with a “purplish, squished face.”

“We wonder, how long did Eve cry?  Was Eve down there crying face down in the pack-n-play for 30 minutes?” asked Kyle Uphold.

State law requires sleeping babies be in day care providers’ line of sight and they are required to check on them frequently.  According to a Child Protective Services investigation, Hopson left Eve alone for at least an hour.

Hopson also admitted to police that she had swaddled Eve, wrapping her arms close to her body so they were unusable, and had a loose fitting waterproof pad in the crib.  Both violate state child care laws and, according to experts, increase the risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, which the King County medical examiner determined was the cause of Eve’s death

“It kind of took it from being, this is something that just happened, to this could have been prevented and someone is at fault,” said Amanda.

The most unbelievable thing about this story may be that this isn’t the first time this happened in Hopson’s day care.  In 2001, a 6-month-old boy died of SIDS in her home.  State documents reveal she put that baby to sleep in her own adult bed, surrounded by pillows and then actually left to go to a neighbor’s house.  Yet she retained her license and was still operating 12 years later when the Upholds left Eve in her care.

“The first thing I thought of were, what are the chances?” asked Kyle.

According to state records, Hopson is the only licensed day care provider to have had more than one child die in her care since 2000.

“You don’t give her a pat on the back and send her on her way until you figured out what happened with the first child, and that’s what caused me the most concern,” said Lincoln Beauregard, the Upholds’ attorney.

Even more alarming is the long history of multiple sleep-related violations at First Nest.  Department of Early Learning said its inspections found Hopson let children nap in car seats, which is a violation because it can restrict babies’ airways, increasing the risk for SIDS.

Investigators said they found she continued to swaddle children and put them to sleep in an unapproved corner of her basement, and in a dark bedroom downstairs, despite repeated warnings not to do so.  Some violations were corrected, but returned later in other inspections, investigators said.

In December 2012, just five months before Eve’s death, one inspector found 25 separate violations and that still wasn’t enough to shut her down.  Even though inspectors visited the home monthly between December and May, all the problems still weren’t fixed.

“What is the point of the inspections if they aren’t going to be enforced?” asked Kyle.

“We feel like a lot of people failed to do their jobs,” said Amanda.

Amy Blondin is the spokeswoman for the Department of Early Learning, the agency charged with inspecting and licensing all day cares in the state of Washington.  For legal reasons, she could not comment on the Uphold case specifically.

“We want to work with providers to make sure they’re offering safe, healthy care — but not be overly burdensome at the same time,” said Blondin.

“How do you handle those types of situations when you find the same thing happening over and over again?” asked Q13 FOX News reporter Dana Rebik.

“We try to work with providers and provide technical assistance to help them get to minimum licensing standards.  We want to help them succeed in their business,” said Blondin.

“That’s kind of infuriating,” said Amanda Uphold.  “It’s nice if the business succeeds, but if there are children at risk, that’s the issue.”

After Eve’s death, Child Protective Services found Hopson was negligent and revoked her license.  But apparently there is no guarantee she won’t get it back someday.

“It’s case-by-case, but if someone could demonstrate 10 years down the road they have somehow changed whatever the issue was, we would consider that,” said Blondin.

Efforts to contact Hopson over months for comment on this story were unsuccessful and she failed to respond to repeated emails, phone calls and a letter.

In December, Eve would have celebrated her first birthday.

“There’s no moving on or getting over this.  We just try to remember her.  We try to keep her alive and talk about her and say her name,” said Amanda.

They wear red every Sunday.  It was Eve’s color.  Red and lady bugs are the two small things that help keep their baby’s memory alive.  Her parents say they want justice for their precious baby girl, to make sure this never happens to anyone else.

“To just let it go would be doing Eve a disservice.  If somebody along the way would have stepped up and said, ‘Hey, we need to do something about this’, we would have had a different outcome and Eve still would have been here,” said Amanda.

The Upholds have retained Beauregard to represent them.  The attorneys have already filed a tort claim against the Department of Early Learning and Department of Social and Health Services.  The state has a window of time to respond before the Upholds will file a lawsuit against those agencies, as well as Hopson.

If you are concerned about your child’s day care, you can do a search of their inspection history on the Department of Early Learning’s Child Care Check.

To find a licensed provider, click here.

Before deciding on a day care, it’s a good idea to interview the provider and be prepared with a list of good questions.

SEATTLE — A healthy and beautiful baby girl dies at a Seattle day care and now her parents are talking only to Q13 FOX News.

Kyle and Amanda Uphold are in mourning after their baby girl’s death in May.  They say the state failed to protect their daughter Eve.  She was just 4-months-old when she died at her licensed in-home day care in Seattle’s Greenwood neighborhood, ‘First Nest’, run by Rhonda Hopson.

eve1Hopson told investigators she put Eve down for a nap that afternoon, and found her at least an hour later face-down and not breathing.  The King County Medical Examiner ruled the cause of death was Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS.

After a Child Protective Services investigation, Hopson was found negligent in Eve’s death.  We explain why, and uncover a long list of safety violations at this day care dating back more than a decade.  On top of that, this isn’t the only time this has happened in Hopson’s home.  We detail another SIDS death in her home that happened years ago.  Watch the story Wednesday on Q13 FOX News at 9 p.m. and 10 p.m.

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