The Blog Formerly Known As Practical Paralegalism
Texas legal assistant Avonda Fox has experienced a parent’s worst nightmare: the death of her young son, Jacob Ray-Shaun Fox, by heatstroke, after he was left unattended in a day-care van on July 20, 2006.
Fox tells her story firsthand at the site of the foundation she created in her son’s memory:
At the age of 25 I found myself in the untenable position of being a single mother with two small boys, one of whom was now dead. There are no words in the English language to adequately describe the degree of devastation I experienced at the realization that: 1.) my son was lost forever: 2 ) I had no idea how to plan a funeral: 3.)I had no life insurance on my children: and 4.)no money for funeral expenses.
But she turned the unimaginable trauma of losing a child under horrific circumstances into the creation of a new Texas childcare law, Jacob’s Law, which goes into effect in September and will require day-care workers that transport children to undergo two hours of transportation safety training each year.
On average, 37 children die each year across the country from vehicle-related hyperthermia whether left behind by day-care workers or parents, according to data compiled by Jan Null, a professor at San Francisco State University. There were nine deaths in Texas last year.
State Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, authored the bill after Fox met with her and shared her story. Shapiro said she has been outraged when she hears about Jacob and other children left in vehicles.
As a parent myself, this story elicits deep sadness for Fox and her family, as well as outrage and anger at the former day-care owner, Blynithia Washington, who upon learning of the child’s death ordered her employees to leave his body at a park instead of calling 911. Two years of prison time seems inadequate punishment for someone who did that to a small child entrusted to her care.
But Fox is channeling her anger and her pain into saving other children from experiencing her son’s fate. She said:
I wanted to try to save another life. It happens too often in Texas. This is reoccurring. It’s so preventable.
It just shouldn’t happen.
Fox also started the Jacob Fox Foundation, which provides services to families in similar circumstances, including help with funeral expenses and counseling.