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General Assembly passes new daycare regulations

LYNCHBURG (WSLS 10) -Virginia legislators pass new regulations for daycares for the first time in two decades.

This comes just months after two children were killed in a house fire at an unlicensed daycare in Lynchburg.

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Nine-month-old Dakota Aubrey Penn-Williams and 21-month-old Kayden Rain Curtis died in the fire at an unlicensed day care provider, the home of Doris Lee-Thompson who came with a glowing recommendation.

"She loved the children. She was very good to the children," Doucette said. "We got nothing but glowing remarks about her, but by being unlicensed she didn't have the safety plans, and she didn't have the fire extinguisher that would have been required and I think easily could have saved the lives of these two children."

Legislators agreed that the deaths were unnecessary.

New regulations will require fingerprint background checks from all providers and will ban anyone convicted of a sex crime from operating an at-home daycare. They will also require more daycares to be licensed by lowering the threshold from six children to five in a daycare at a time.

Virginia Senator Barbara Favola of the 31st District is one of the bills biggest advocates.

"So we are going to pick up a few families who would ordinarily not be in the license category," Favola said. "In my view, we didn't go far enough in that area."

Many like Favola are still pushing to lower that number even further.

Unlicensed daycares will now be required to provide, in writing, that they are an unlicensed facility to parents of children coming to their facilities.

For new mom Ashley Gautier, it's a relief new regulations will help parents who may not have experience.

"Having our kids in day care is just so stressful. I'm a new mom myself. Knowing that there are new laws in place that keep them safer it really does put my mind at ease more," Gautier said.

Doucette says the disclosure will help parents make better decisions on where to leave their children.

"When parents see that there are safety provisions that are very good. I think it also when providers see it's not that onerous to be licensed," Doucette explained.

Licenses cost $14, which state leaders say will ensures safety training and an emergency plan to help prevent the worst-case scenario.