Boatwright sees child care legislation delayed

Jackie Boatwright has been working eight years to make sure another child doesn't suffer a fate similar to what befell her son.

Add at least a month to that.

The U.S. Senate recessed until Sept. 8 on Friday, not having had a chance to vote on legislation that will force child care providers to disclose whether they have liability insurance. The Anthony DeJuan Boatwright Act never made it to the Senate floor; it is still being deliberated on by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

The legislation is expected to pass because it has bipartisan support, but the question is in what form. Some Republicans and Democrats on the committee want the bill folded into a larger bill reauthorizing the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 1990.

Not surprisingly, Ms. Boatwright, a former Augusta resident, wants the bill to stand on its own with her son's name attached to it. She said incorporating the bill into existing legislation would weaken it.

"It has enough weight based on what happened to my son for it to stand all by itself," she said.

DeJuan, called Juan, was injured in 2001 when he was 14 months old. He wandered into the kitchen of a Hephzibah day care and fell into a mop bucket filled with a mixture of bleach and water.

Juan suffered brain damage. The day care didn't have liability insurance and wasn't required to have it. A $33 million judgment against the owner did Ms. Boatwright no good because there was no money to collect.

U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., one of the committee members who introduced the legislation, will continue to "urge that the bill be sent to the president as a stand-alone," said his press secretary, Sheridan Watson.

In an earlier statement, the senator's office disagreed with Ms. Boatwright's contention that incorporating the bill into the larger child care measure would weaken it.

Ms. Boatwright helped pass two similar bills -- dubbed Juan's Law -- in Georgia and Virginia.

The federal legislation would require child-care providers that receive Child Care and Development Block Grant funds to disclose whether they have liability coverage. It also would require that states recommend such coverage in their licensing process.

Ms. Boatwright said she's not discouraged by the delay -- it just means she'll have to wait a little longer to get what she wants.

"I'm not disappointed because I've been doing this for so long and I know how hard it was for each of the legislations that I've gotten passed," she said. "A lot of them fell through. I didn't get it when I wanted it, but I got it."

Reach Mike Wynn at (706) 823-3218 or mike.wynn@augustachronicle.com.