RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Are your kids safe at daycare or the babysitters? What do you know about the people you're paying to watch your kids?
It's a major concern for a lot of parents, but what's surprising is very few realize there is a free resource available to help answer those questions for you.
The stories that are bad, are the ones that haunt working parents: children hurt or killed in child care. Kids just like Joseph Allen - a little boy who died after a fire in Chesterfield.
His parents learned their son had been breathing in flames and toxic fumes for almost an hour while buckled into an overturned infant car seat.
"There have been more that 60 deaths in childcare in Virginia," said Angela Wirt, with Childcare Aware of Virginia. "The majority of those have occurred in unlicensed child care. Most of them have been infants."
They're the horrific stories Childcare Aware of Virginia wants to stop. And It's what had the organization up early at the capitol Thursday morning, serving coffee and making their case to legislators.
This year, they're pushing for support of bills that encourage the continuation of fingerprint background checks, create minimum safety requirements for *all caregivers, and mandate safe gun storage at home child care facilities. But every day, they're also working to get the message out to parents, that they are here - and their services are free.
"We always struggle with awareness," said Wirt, pointing out that nonprofits don't have big marketing budgets. "All of our services are free regardless of income, regardless of location, regardless of the age of your children. We work with birth to age 12 - we're free to everyone."
The organization can do a customized search for your family for childcare - even considering needs like unusual hours, or children with special needs.
"Whatever it is that their need is, our database tracks all of those variables and we can do a search that pulls all of those variables together." said Wirt. "And gives them the options that they're looking for."
You can begin your search on their website. The nonprofit also provides free training to providers - like CPR skills that can save your child's life in an emergency.
It may start with a conversation over a hot cup of coffee, but the hope is, it will save lives and protect families.
You can reach childcare aware by calling 866-KIDS-TLC, or visit their website.
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