After 1-year-old killed in home daycare fire, Chesterfield parents join fight for tighter regulations

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) –It was an emotional day for Jaci and Matt Allen Thursday. It’s been a little over a year since they lost their 1-year-old son in a home daycare fire in Chesterfield County.

The Allens say their daycare provider had more than 20 years experience and was recommended highly by friends and family. They say it wasn’t until after their son’s death they learned that provider had too many kids under Virginia law and should have had a license. Their provider was charged with a misdemeanor- the current penalty for running an illegal daycare.

“We thought our son would be safe, unfortunately the worst happened to us that anyone could ever imagine,” J. Allen said. “Right now a misdemeanor is a slap on the wrist.”

The Allens, along with several other families who have lost children at home daycares, were at the capitol Thursday pushing several bills they’re hoping will make home daycares safer, including fingerprint background checks for licensed daycares, and a measure that would make it a felony if a home daycare provider operates illegally and it leads to the death or serious injury of a child.

“It’s important for many families, especially for working parents, to have a safe and reliable place to send their children while they’re at work,” M. Allen said.

The Allens say they’ll do whatever they can to help prevent other parents from experiencing what they’ve gone through.

“To this day, no one has really been held accountable for our son’s passing,” M. Allen added.

“This has been extremely difficult. Our lives are forever changed. We’re here at the general assembly fighting for our son, fighting for Joseph’s law,” J. Allen said.

In addition to those bills, the state will study if any more recommendations should be made to promote child safety at licensed and license-exempt daycares.

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