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Parents tell story of loss

February 24, 1998
By: SAMANTHA YOUNG
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Once again parents of the children killed under the care of Columbia day-care provider Joanne Palmer relived their story.

The memories still fresh in their minds, Rick and Sally McDowell and Debra and Dale Linneman recounted their searches for quality day care only to have them end in tragedy.

While under Palmer's care at her home, 8-week-old Deidre Linneman and 4-month-old Taylor McDowell were suffocated in November 1996 and December 1992 respectively.

The Linnemans and McDowells told the House Social Services Committee they had carefully considered many day cares, but it was information given to them by Palmer that lead each couple to enroll their child into her day care.

Both couples said they would like to increase the availability of information to parents seeking child care and elderly care and said Rep. Kate Hollingsworth's proposal would be a good place to start.

The measure would establish the "Family Care Safety Act" to provide criminal background information to employers about child care workers and elderly care workers.

The health department would set up a toll-free number that would connect employers to a family care safety registry and access line.

"This would allow family and employers to access public records for more informed choices," said Holingsworth, D-Country Glen.

All child care workers would be required to register with the department by submitting fingerprints, a social security number and a signed consent for background checks. Information would be updated every two years.

Employers and family members would have access to the information when hiring child care or elderly care providers licensed or paid for by the state. They would be able to find out background information, such as felony convictions, abuse claims and license revocation or suspension.

"This legislation could prevent unnecessary injuries or death," said Dale Linneman.

His wife went further, saying if Hollingsworth's proposal would have been law when she and her husband had been looking for day care, she would have seen the red flags in Palmer's record.

Rep. Rich Chrismer, R-St. Peters, said he doubted if the bill would pass the legislature because the measure would not exempt religious day-care facilities.

Hollingsworth said even though religious day cares are not subject to many of the present regulations, she would definitely not exempt them from the criminal background checks.