Losing a child is the hardest thing any parent can face.
No matter what has come to pass – be it accident, illness or injury – no mother or father should ever have to bury their baby.
Now imagine how much worse it is when it’s a simple mistake that has resulted in your child’s death? It doesn’t even bear thinking about.
Unfortunately, that horror was realised by Ali and Derek Dodd after they left their 11-week-old baby at an in-home daycare.
Ali Dodd didn’t want to leave her newborn son Shepard with a stranger so early in his life. After all, he was just 11-weeks-old.
Circumstances dictated, however, that she had to return to work; the bills wouldn’t pay for themselves.
Together with her husband, Derek, she chose a reputable and well-recommended daycare to look after their precious newborn son.
On April 6, 2015, the Dodds left their son at the home daycare they had chosen. It was the sixth time they had done so.
Little did they know that just a few hours later their lives would be changed forever.
It’s the sort of conversation no mother should ever have to have, when Ali recounts the fateful day her existence was knocked off its axis.
“She [the woman who ran the daycare program] said, ‘Ali, get here quick. I don’t know what happened! I put him down for a nap, and when I came back to check on him, he was blue.”
Ali and Derek will never forget the moment they realised Shepard was gone.
Furthermore, as if the shock and crushing loss of their son wasn’t enough, it got worse. The family were forced to accept that Shephard’s death could well have been prevented.
It was a mistake that should never have happened.
According to Us Weekly, the official cause of Shephard’s death was positional asphyxiation. The boy had been swaddled and then left to sleep alone in a buckled car seat.
Shephard’s head had dropped to his chest as he slept, and, lacking the muscles to lift it, he was bereft of air.
Incredibly, the authorities had already received complaints from other parents concerning the daycare practitioner in question – it had been claimed previously that she used unsafe methods when the children under her care were sleeping.
“This wasn’t an accident,” says dad Derek.
“She knew that a car seat wasn’t safe for sleep and that two hours is much too long to leave an infant behind a closed door.”
According to Derek, the daycare practitioner hasn’t been charged with any crime. Shephard’s case is still open.
The parents have tried to deal with the grief as well as possible. The last three years of their lives have been spent honouring their baby’s life by speaking candidly about the tragedy. Their aim is to spread the word so that nothing like this ever happens again.
Their hope is that no family ever has to go through what they’ve suffered. They currently work at educating parents and carers about the importance of safe sleeping areas for children.
The couple, from Oklahoma, have also petitioned their state to impose stricter standards for daycare centres and pre-school.
Part of their work has been the establishing of Shepard’s Watch, an organisation that aims to learn people on young children and their safety.
”Shepards death does not have to be in vain”, says Derek.
Keeping your child safe
Don’t forget that car seats are designed to protect children when they’re travelling in a car. It’s perfectly fine to let your child fall asleep in these chairs, but you must be careful about how they are positioned. As with everything, it’s always important to read the safety instructions.
If you have a car seat that meets the necessary requirements, then ensure it’s on the floor when your child is in it – not on a table or bed.
It’s vitally important that you use them correctly. Most important, according to Anna Strandberg, child safety expert at the Consumer Agency, is that you never leave your child unattended when they’re in one.
That infants still die every year because of negligence and simple mistakes is something we can never accept.
And, just as these parents continue to emphasise: Every child deserves to wake up.
Please share this on Facebook if you, also, want to raise awareness for child safety. It’s important we spread the message about the risks of child seats!