Originally created 07/24/02

Barnes joins in crusade



Jackie Boatwright has received some high-profile support in her crusade for day care insurance in Georgia.

Gov. Roy Barnes, House Majority Leader Larry Walker and Rep. Tyrone Brooks have all voiced support for her fight to force day care centers across the state to either get liability insurance or notify parents that they don't have it.

"How much is a child worth? It's not a matter of financial impact on the family. It's a matter of the child. We've got to put the child first," Mr. Brooks, D-Atlanta, said in a telephone interview Tuesday. "I support her 100 percent."

Ms. Boatwright was left with a half-million dollars in medical bills when her 14-month-old son, Juan, became semi-comatose after nearly drowning in an unattended mop bucket at a family day care center Sept. 9.

The day care center was licensed but didn't have insurance, something the state doesn't require. Juan, who is now 2, remains hooked to a ventilator and needs expensive 24-hour care.

Mr. Walker, D-Perry, heard about Mr. Brooks' support of day care insurance and joined the cause. He says the issue should be debated during the next session.

"Your proposal seems logical, and I feel it is something we should address during the 2003 session of the General Assembly," the House majority leader wrote to Ms. Boatwright in a July 15 letter.

In another letter to Ms. Boatwright, Mr. Barnes called day care insurance a "complex matter" that should be explored further. He said he had asked Commissioner Jim Martin of the Georgia Department of Human Resources to meet with her to discuss changes in day care regulations.

Changes in Georgia's regulation of day care centers can occur in two ways. State legislators can pass a law mandating change, or DHR officials can make administrative changes after a public hearing.

Ms. Boatwright has taken her cause to any legislator or state official who will listen. She is gathering signatures on a petition and holding a summer walking campaign, which continues at 7 a.m. Saturday at the Bi-Lo on Gordon Highway. She has asked supporters to join her during the two-mile walk.

Meanwhile, she said the letters of support from legislators and the governor give her hope. She called Mr. Barnes' letter sincere and personal.

In his July 18 letter, the governor said he could "only imagine the difficulties that you both are facing."

"Yet in light of all you and Juan are enduring," he wrote, "you are still able to devote time and energy to exploring ways in which families who find themselves in similar situations in the future may be helped."

Reach Greg Rickabaugh at (706) 828-3851 or greg.rickabaugh@augustachronicle.com.