Last Wednesday, Ann Marie Cardinal got out of jail after serving less of half of the sentence she receive in 2005 for operating an unlicensed day care center in Virginia Beach. While Cardinal was, in fact, illegally caring for as many 20 children at her home on Highpoint Avenue in the Shadowlawn neighborhood, what prompted her conviction was the death of Hannah Weiss on Cardinal’s watch. Baby Hannah was just 9 months old.
Cardinal was not found directly responsible for Hannah’s death, but Cardinal did not have any of the required permits or training to care for large numbers of children in Virginia. When emergency personnel responded to the call about Hannah’s respiratory arrest, the EMTs found Cardinal performing CPR incorrectly. Cardinal had also been convicted in 2001 for felony conspiracy to obtain money under false pretenses.
I must agree with the editors of the Virginian-Pilot, who wrote over the weekend, "The events surrounding a 9-month-old girl’s death at a Virginia Beach day care in 2005 are egregious enough that they should shame Virginia into changing its child protection laws." Currently, parents and guardians cannot directly access files regarding complaints about Virginia day care centers or operators. Also, the state’s Child and Protective Services lacks the staff, resources and authority to adequately detect and close illegal child care operations.
The problem of unlicensed and unsafe day cares persists. Nor is inexpert and potentially harmful child care a problem unique to Tidewater or Virginia. Earlier this month, a Florida jury awarded a family $3 million because a day worker bent their son’s leg until it snapped.
So injured children and traumatized families do have some protection in the courts. Still, regulators need to make greater efforts to prevent potential and actual injuries and fatalities before they occur.
About the Editors: The Shapiro, Cooper, Lewis & Appleton personal injury law firm, which has offices in Virginia (VA) and North Carolina (NC), edits the injury law blogs Virginia Beach Injuryboard, Norfolk Injuryboard and Northeast North Carolina Injuryboard as pro bono services.