DOUGLAS COUNTY, Colo. (KDVR) — A Douglas County mother whose baby died in an unlicensed home daycare is now taking action to help other families. A bill has just been introduced at the Colorado Capitol named after 3-month-old Elle Matthews.
Her mother, Kelsey Matthews, contacted state lawmakers in the months following her death last year.
“I knew something had to happen. Something had to change. Eighteen kids dead from 2011 to 2019, that doesn’t even include our baby,” Matthews said.
Matthews said she got a call from Sen. Jessie Danielson on what would’ve been Elle’s 6-month birthday. “It was to me is a sign that it happens on a day like this,” she said.
She shared her journey with Danielson and asked for her help strengthening the laws surrounding unlicensed daycares, transparency and enforcement.
Then last week, she received word that Danielson not only introduced a bill but named it “The Elle Matthews Act for Increased Safety in Child Care.”
“I felt it was important to name this act for her little girl. Although she is gone, we have a chance to do something in honor of her memory. I felt the right thing to do is name the bill for her and it will appear in statute forever,” Danielson said.
Matthews said she had a wave of emotions when she found out.
“Definitely joy that hopefully in the future parents won’t have to deal with what we’re going through, but anguish that your baby had to die for anything to happen, and a little bit of anger that it did take that long for a system to change,” Matthews said.
Danielson praised Matthews for her strength in sharing her story and advocating for change to help other parents.
“I didn’t realize the problems were so prevalent until the last few months when some of these reports became public. It is a little bit shocking especially when some of these solutions we’ve included in my bill are straight forward and simple, a pretty common-sense approach to a very serious problem,” Danielson said.
The bill would make it easier for parents to find information about childcare facilities that have violated the rules and regulations.
“We were educated going into it. The only missing link we did not have were the cease-and-desist orders. If we had had that information, we wouldn’t have taken our child there,” Matthews said.
Only after baby Elle’s death did Matthews and her husband discover Amanda Anderson was caring for 16-17 children at one time, and the state had issued five different cease-and-desist orders before Elle’s death and two more after her death.
“By giving parents the whole entire picture, they can make a decision licensed or unlicensed, but at least they have the facts.
“I am very grateful we have found a senator that will go to bat for us and make it so the government will have to have accountability,” Matthews said.
“When these childcare facilities have a serious offense, it is very difficult to find this information. Also, we have seen enforcement of these rules has not been quite up to snuff, so what we have done with this bill is to provide adequate transparency for parents about these facilities and provide for stricter enforcement so hopefully these childcare facilities fall in line or cease providing care,” Danielson said.
The bill will have its first committee hearing on Wednesday. Danielson said it does have bipartisan support. And Matthews said she will be there to share her story every step of the way.
“There’s a lot of things that can continue to happen, but I feel like this is the biggest one, this is going to hold those people accountable that need to be held accountable. It wasn’t just Amanda that killed Elle. It was the system,” Matthews said.