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Public Statements

Anthony DeJuan Boatwrght Act

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. BARROW. Mr. Speaker, back home in Augusta, Georgia, there's a little 9-year old boy by the name of Anthony DeJuan Boatwright, who's in a semi-comatose state and hooked up to a ventilator. He's been like this since September 9, 2001.

Now, Juan, as he's called, wasn't born that way. He was the victim of a tragic and a preventable accident. The worst of it is if his mom had been given the information that this bill requires, then this accident never would have happened.

Back in 2001, Juan's mother, Jacqueline Boatwright, was doing what millions of mothers and fathers all over the country do everyday. She dropped her child in daycare so that she could go to work to improve her family's life.

Ms. Boatwright had done her homework. She was a sophisticated consumer and she shopped around and found a daycare center that she felt comfortable leaving her baby boy with. It was licensed by the State of Georgia. It was clean. And most importantly, it complied with all sorts of Federal regulations under the Child Care Development Block Grant Act that are designed to prevent and control infectious diseases, ensure building safety, premises access, and mental health and safety training for staff.

But there was one thing that Jackie Boatwright did not know; that these folks could take her money, they could take her child, they could harm her child, and they would not be financially responsible for any of the harm that they do. That's because they had no liability insurance. There was no law that required them to have any liability insurance, and there wasn't even any law that required them to tell her that.

Mr. Speaker, sure enough, that's just what happened. They ignored Juan long enough for him to find a bucket of water. Like every child that age, he had just enough strength to pull himself up to look over inside and to fall inside head first, but not enough upper body strength to push himself back up. It was a death trap, and little Juan fell into it. Well, Juan survived, but his life and that of his family have been ruined and changed forever.

Now, this bill would have prevented all of this from happening. It wouldn't have prevented this from happening by adding a whole new bureaucracy of daycare inspectors to watch the watchers. It would have prevented this from happening in the least expensive and most efficient way possible, by simply requiring the daycare center to tell parents that they're willing to accept the moral responsibility of taking care of your children, but they won't accept any of the financial responsibility for failing to do so.

That would have prevented this from happening, because if Jackie had known that she would have done what any other parent would do. She would have taken her business someplace else, someplace where they accept some degree of financial responsibility for the consequences of their negligence and incorporate that cost in the cost of doing business, just like every other financially responsible business does.

Now, Jackie has tried to make something positive out of all this. She's determined to prevent this from happening to anybody else. Thanks to her efforts, financial responsibility disclosure laws are now on the books in four States: Georgia, California, Virginia and New Hampshire. This bill will close the gap by requiring financial responsibility disclosure for licensed daycare facilities in the rest of the country.

In 2005, there were literally millions of kids in this country receiving daycare in facilities that are governed by the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act. Only a fraction of these kids live in the four States that have now stepped forward to enact financial responsibility disclosure laws. That means that millions of kids still go to licensed daycare facilities all around the country, today, where parents have no idea that their daycare centers can harm their child and accept none of the financial consequences for doing so.

This bill will give the parents of these millions of children the same information that parents are entitled to as a matter of law in the States of Georgia, California, Virginia and New Hampshire. These parents have just as
much need to know about the financial responsibility of the folks they give their kids to, and this bill will give them the same right to that information.

Now, this bill does not require any daycare facilities to actually go out and get liability insurance. It merely requires licensed daycare centers to tell parents whether or not they have insurance and, if so, how much. That's all. It then leaves it up to the parents to do what Jackie Boatwright would have done if only she had had this information, and that is to decide for themselves whether or not to leave their child with somebody who wants to accept the responsibility for caring for your child, wants to take your money for doing so, but is unable and unwilling to accept any of the financial consequences for failing to fulfill this responsibility.

Indirectly, Mr. Speaker, this bill actually does more than that. By giving parents the information that they have a right to know, it places a powerful economic incentive on all daycare centers to do what all of the responsible daycare centers are already doing, and that is to assume the financial responsibility that goes along with the moral responsibility of taking care of children in their care and to incorporate the cost of that into the cost of doing business. Anyone who wants to do business without doing that will be at a competitive disadvantage compared to those who do.

This approach gives the invisible hand of self interest the opportunity to do some good in the marketplace. Parents who place their children in daycare centers will have the information that they need in order to make the right choice for their children, and daycare centers that don't want to do the right thing by the children in their care will compete at a disadvantage compared to those who do.

We have truth in labeling. We have truth in lending, and we have truth in advertising. This is truth in daycare. The States have led the way, and now it's time for the Federal Government to follow their lead. The families who end up being harmed because they are kept in the dark deserve to know the truth.


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