Of the 43 deaths in unregulated homes, The Post’s review found that 22 were sleep-related, 10 involved physical abuse, three were accidental and one was natural. In seven cases, the causes were unclear in the available records. All but one of the sleep-related deaths involved risky actions taken by caretakers, records show. These included leaving infants to sleep in an unsafe setting or failing to check on them for extended periods.

In 2010, 7-month-old Finnigan Bales was found unresponsive in an upstairs bedroom in a Virginia Beach townhouse where Deborah Blaney ran an unregulated day-care operation. He had not been “checked on or fed for hours,” according to an investigation by the local branch of Child Protective Services.

Blaney had too many children in her care — seven — and eventually was convicted of operating a day-care program without a license, a misdemeanor. She was sentenced to serve 10 days in jail.

Finnigan’s mother, Megan Bales, said she and her husband interviewed Blaney and checked her references, but they learned that Blaney had no license only after Finnigan died.

“They don’t even know what time Finn passed away,” Bales said.

— A two-part investigation by The Washington Post looks into unregulated day care providers in Virginia. Since there is a the shortage of licensed day care providers in the state, unregulated day care providers—who don’t need to have any child care licenses or CPR training as long as they are caring for five children or fewer—fill in the gaps, especially for families who are unable to afford to place their children in licensed centers.

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Photo: U.S. Army