LAKEWOOD, Colo. (KDVR) — Gov. Jared Polis signed “The Elle Matthews Act for Increased Safety in Child Care” into law on Wednesday.
The measure was spearheaded by a Douglas County mother whose 3-month-old baby died at a Douglas County home daycare last August.
“They’ve really turned that grief into being a force of change and a force of action, helping to pass this bill to make sure other Colorado parents don’t have to go through what they went through,” Polis said. “The operator of the daycare where Elle was lost had been told repeatedly to shut down, but there was no enforcement mechanism and there was no transparency for parents to even know about it. This legislation makes sure there’s a more effective relationship with law enforcement, specific penalties, parents deserve information when they are operating without a license to protect our kids.”
This law makes it easier for parents to find information. It also provides stricter enforcement when providers are operating illegally.
Only after their baby’s death did the Matthews family discover the provider had 16-17 children there at one time. The state also issued five different cease-and-desist orders before Elle’s death and two more after her death.
The Elle Matthews law requires the state to post information about childcare providers who have been ordered to stop operating, something Elle’s parents wish they had access to while researching their daycare provider.
“It was very frustrating, for sure, when you would ask very simple questions to an entity that was supposed to protect children and they wouldn’t provide their answers. Hopefully this law will save other baby’s lives,” Kelsey Matthews said. “Unfortunately, there have been two other infant deaths since Elle’s in unlicensed care. And we just hope this is something to allow parents tools and resources to look at to make sure they are not being manipulated by their childcare provider.”
“We’re glad. This is something that should’ve been happening in the first place. There’s no reason if they are already tracking unlicensed providers they aren’t putting it on their site just like they are licensed providers,” Matthews said. “Now it’s law it has to be there. And hopefully that will stop future parents from going to someone like we did with the knowledge cease and desist orders were there. That is something we did not have.”
State Sen. Jessie Danielson said Kelsey approached her about sponsoring this legislation.
“This woman and her family decided to take action, to do something about it, to help protect other children, to prevent this kind of thing from happening to other families. She had a lot of great ideas,” Danielson said.
“Some of these folks operating illegal childcare facilities are very good at manipulating families, very good at lying and cheating and deceiving people in order to stay in business. So what we have done is given parents some tools to see if they have come into contact with someone who is operating outside the law,” Danielson continued. “We’ve provided that kind of transparency so parents can see if they are looking at childcare operating illegally, have done something wrong and should not be taking care of children. To me, this is just a really good example of one person’s strength and dedication to protecting other people’s families across the state.”
Michelle Barnes, executive director of Colorado Department of Human Services, said the new law “is an important step for us to share the details regarding illegal child care providers.”
Kelsey Matthews said her work to protect children has just begun.
“This is the first step. The task force is the second: looking into changes for licensed and unlicensed day cares, because there have been problems at both types,” she said
She calls Elle their angel, watching over them.
“I hope she would feel that part of the purpose that we look for why she died has been fulfilled and maybe at peace and help us with us with peace as to why she was taken so soon,” Matthews said.