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Mom whose baby died at first day of daycare pens heart-wrenching op-ed on paid leave

The mother of an infant who died in a New York daycare center on his first day urges parents to demand better paid leave policies.
/ Source: TODAY

Dozens of questions continue to linger surrounding the death of Amber Scorah's 3-month-old son, who died just hours after being dropped off at his first day of childcare this summer.

But the biggest one for the grieving New York mother is why she felt forced by financial reasons to leave her child when she wasn't ready.

“Why, why does a parent in this country have to sacrifice her job, her ability to provide her child with proper health care — or for many worse off than me, enough food to eat — to buy just a few more months to nurture a child past the point of vulnerability?” Scorah wrote in a New York Times essay that pushes for a national paid parental leave policy.

Karl Towndrow, Scorah’s son with her partner Lee Towndrow, died this past July on his first day at SoHo Child Care, an unlicensed facility in downtown Manhattan. Scorach returned to the center at midday, just hours after dropping him off, to nurse her son, but instead found him unconscious and the center’s daycare owner “performing CPR on him, incorrectly."

A medical examiner's report released last week said the cause of death remains unknown.

While Scorah recounts the horrific scene, she also stresses her article is not about day-care safety. Nor is it intended to lash out at her company. An editorial producer at Scholastic, Scorah received three months of paid maternity leave, which she admits is considered among the more generous. But Scorah also said her human resources department wouldn't allow her to extend her time off, even without pay, without losing her job — and her family’s health insurance.

“A mother should never have no choice but to leave her infant with a stranger at 3 months old if that decision doesn’t feel right to her. Or at 6 weeks old. Or 3 weeks old. I would have stayed home with Karl longer, but there just didn’t seem to be a way," she wrote.

Scorah placed much of the blame squarely on the American culture, comparing it to that of multiple European nations where paid parental leave is sometimes several times lengthy, it's also mandatory.

“I wasn’t just up against the end of my parental leave. I was up against an entire culture that places very little value on caring for infants and small children,” she said, providing links to research and articles that suggest extended parental leave reduces infant death and helps women stay active in the workforce.

"If we truly valued the 47 percent of the work force who are women, and the value of our families, things would look different," she said. "Mothers could go back to work after taking time off to recover physically from birth and bond with their young children. Health care could be available to bridge that return to work so that our children could get their wellness checkups and vaccinations.

Scorah recently launched the website, ForKarl, to help encourage people to voice their support for paid family leave by contacting congressional lawmakers and presidential candidates.

“Yes, it’s possible that even in a different system, Karl still might not have lived a day longer, but had he had been with me, where I wanted him, I wouldn’t be sitting here, living with the nearly incapacitating anguish of a question that has no answer," she wrote.

“There are plenty of good examples of how to create a national parental leave system that works. Our children can’t afford lobbyists. It’s up to us parents to demand more.”