WRAL Investigates

Wake child care trainer takes action after baby's day care death

Posted May 17, 2013

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— As a Wake County child care trainer, Krista Barbour’s job is to teach day care providers how to keep infants safe. When she heard the story about a 4-month-old boy who suffocated at a Fort Bragg day care, she decided to take action.

Santino "Sonny" Degenhard suffocated during tummy time at Pope Child Development Center on March 9, 2012, while a child care worker got the room ready for the day by cleaning bottles and putting sheets on mattresses. He was taken off life support six days later.

Remembering Santino ‘Sonny’ Degenhard Remembering Santino 'Sonny' Degenhard

The WRAL Investigates team reported on Sonny’s story on Feb. 25.

“In watching the piece, I thought, ‘I can do something. I can’t help these parents, but I can hopefully help that this will never happen to another set of parents again,’” Barbour said.

As in Sonny's case, tummy time can be dangerous for infants who lack neck strength, which is why experts recommend babies sleep on their backs. However, when they are awake, short periods of supervised tummy time are necessary to help babies develop their muscles and avoid getting a flat head.

Sonny’s story and the dangers of tummy time are now part of Barbour’s lesson plan when she teaches infant child care providers across Wake County.

Cindy Ferns, an infant teacher at Primrose School at Holly Grove in Holly Springs, and Bernetta Jack, owner/director of Cora’s Caring Hands in Knightdale, both watched Sonny’s story during a recent training class.

“I can’t even imagine,” Ferns said, after watching the story. “It scares me, too, taking care of infants.”

“There should be a lot more training incorporated, like SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome),” Jack said.

The WRAL Investigates team looked into state training and found very specific information about SIDS deaths and how to place infants on their backs to sleep. However, the guidelines are not specific on supervision during tummy time, saying only that infants need to be awake and supervised.

Barbour is taking that training one step further and says she has the support of the group that funds her training, Wake County SmartStart.

“I believe (Sonny’s story) will be imprinted on their hearts,” said SmartStart spokeswoman Phyllis Barbour, who is not related to Krista Barbour.

State officials sent a link to Sonny’s story to its child care trainers, but no official changes to the guidelines have been made.

The child care worker who was in charge of monitoring Sonny lost her job, and others who entered the room and failed to help Sonny underwent more training. The U.S. Attorney's Office investigated the case and announced last month that it has decided not to file criminal charges against the day care worker in charge of Sonny.

Sonny's parents, Jason and Rachel Degenhard, donated their son's organs after his death. They recently learned that two of his heart valves were donated to two infants who are doing well.

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  • IPayYouPay May 20, 2013

    Tummy time is a no-no. This rule has been around since before my son was born in 1997. What was this woman thinking?

  • djofraleigh May 17, 2013

    A lot of people learned from this WRAL story. I did! I'm old and I didn't know the danger! Sonny might not have lived long, but Sonny's story is going to save lives!