Parents may assume their child-care providers carry liability insurance in case of an accident, but Minnesota law doesn't require it and regulators don't always track which providers have it.
Day-care providers who don't carry insurance are required in Minnesota to notify parents in writing, but those disclosures often are overlooked by new parents or masked in wordy contracts. In a review of child-care deaths since 2002, the Star Tribune found at least two cases when grieving parents learned their providers lacked coverage only after their children died.
"We just assumed she was a licensed day-care professional with insurance," said Marcus Eytcheson, whose daughter died in 2010 at a Fairmont, Minn., home day care that wasn't insured.
"Being involved in the construction industry, to be licensed, you have to be insured," said Eytcheson, a roofing contractor. "Apparently that is not the case with day care."
Only five states and the District of Columbia required operators of small family day cares to have liability insurance in 2008, according to the National Association for Regulatory Administration. But 23 states required child-care centers to be insured.
Coverage is encouraged -- and required for accreditation from national professional groups -- because it pays for medical expenses when children are injured in care, and it protects providers against maltreatment claims.
The lack of coverage also makes it difficult for families who suffer the loss of a child to seek justice through the civil courts; many attorneys are reluctant to take cases where there's no way to get paid.
Robert Fletcher had received assurance from his son's child-care provider in Park Rapids, Minn., that she was insured. Three-month-old Blake Fletcher died in her care after she placed him down for a nap on his stomach -- a violation of safe-sleep guidelines.
When Fletcher and his wife, Amanda, went to sue the provider, they learned that she had let her insurance lapse months before Blake's death. No attorney would take their case.
Regulators for the Minnesota Department of Human Services are exploring whether they can electronically track providers by their coverage status, said Jerry Kerber, the department's inspector general. A state insurance requirement is also under discussion.
Federal legislation on the issue has passed the U.S. House in recent years, but it wouldn't change much in Minnesota. The Anthony DeJuan Boatright Act would require U.S. day-care providers to have liability insurance or publicly post that they don't. The act is named after a Georgia boy who suffered brain damage as a toddler in 2001 when he fell into an unattended bucket of mop water at an uninsured child-care center. Boatright died this March after years of costly medical care.