For any parent with a new baby, leaving your child for the first time isn’t easy. It’s not always feasible to remain home caring for your precious bundle of joy.

When you leave your child with a babysitter or at a daycare center, you’re trusting your kid will be safe and well cared for. If at a daycare, you expect staff to be adequately trained in how to respond if there’s an incident. The facility must be licensed. It must be clean and all safety precautions taken with toys. The staff must be aware of any allergies of any children in their care.

Ali Dodd and her husband chose an in-home daycare provider to watch over their sweet 11-week-old baby boy, Shepard. Ali had to return to work, despite not wishing to do so. As we all know, bills don’t pay themselves. The Dodd’s felt reassured by the highly recommended daycare provider they’d selected.

All hope and confidence in the provider were dashed when Ali received a frantic call from her son’s carer: “She said, ‘Ali, get here quick. I don’t know what happened!’” Dodd later told Us Weekly. “I put him down for a nap, and when I came back to check on him, he was blue,” the daycare provider had said.

The Dodd’s darling boy, Shepard, died. This is what they posted on social media after his death: “This page will be quiet for a few days so as a family we take time to remember our little boy.  Today two years ago was his second day of daycare. Here is a picture his provider sent that day. We miss this smile so very much. ?”

This page will be quiet for a few days so as a family we take time to remember our little boy. Today two years ago was…

Posted by Shepard's Watch on Friday, March 31, 2017

Derek and Ali Dodd will never forget those first moments of anguish and heartbreak when they realized he was gone. As if losing their son wasn’t enough, the grieving parents had to struggle with the truth their son’s death was entirely preventable. Us weekly reported Shepard’s official cause of death was positional asphyxiation.

Shepard was left alone to sleep; the daycare provider swaddled him and placed him in a car seat. The baby’s head sank down into his chest. He didn’t have the strength in his neck to lift his head. The poor guy suffocated.

In honor of Shepard's 6 month birthday I wanted to post this video as it's my very favorite of him and me. It was hard day. Derek is gone and it's my first day at being a single parent since Shepard died. I miss his smell, his smile, our conversations, snuggling, and the way we belonged together. I knew Shepard was just for me and now there is just this gaping hole in my chest that time will not heal. Another baby will not fill. Legislation or some legal action will not fill. I'm stuck here walking this earth with this open wound. This life wasn't meant to be fair or easy, and there is no mercy here, or none I can find.We have to stop the ignorance, we have to protect our babies. We need to stand up together as Mothers, Fathers, Sons, Daughters, Sisters and Brothers and DEMAND that our state not be any less safe than the state with the best laws. We have to DEMAND proper deterrents that will make caregivers think twice before violating safe sleep practices. We have to DEMAND that all parents are allowed free and accessable information on a website so we can find safe daycares for our kids. We have to DEMAND that once a child dies as a result of a caregivers negligence they loose that vocation for life! We have to DEMAND that all daycares carry liability insurance that will pay for medical bills in case of injury or death with NO exceptions!Please stand with me, please pray for me. We have to make Shepard our story. We HAVE to do this for Shepard and for all children in Oklahoma!

Posted by Shepard's Watch on Thursday, July 16, 2015

Unbelievably, the daycare provider the Dodd’s believed to be so credible had a citation against her with The Department of Human Services for using unsafe sleep methods: “This wasn’t an accident,” Derek Dodd insisted. “She knew that a car seat wasn’t safe for sleep and that two hours is much too long to leave an infant behind a closed door,” the pained father explained.

What makes this story even more tragic is the childcare provider hasn’t been charged with any crime, according to the Dodd’s. The still bereaved parents have spent the past three years honoring their son’s memory by working to prevent other tragedies like this from happening. Ali and Derek are on a mission to educate caregivers and parents about the importance of utilizing safe sleep practices. Their non-profit, called Shepard’s Watch, was created to inform the public about infant and child safety.

Shepard's StoryShepard was an unnaturally happy and healthy boy. He would smile until something needed to be corrected, he would cry, you would fix it, then he would smile again. He was a special baby to my wife and I after years of infertility and had a life ahead with limitless possibilities. Which is why on April 6, 2015 our world changed forever. We chose this in-home daycare provider because she came recommended from a friend and she would only watch teachers kids. Meaning she would be closed during the summers and school breaks, which was great for us, as I’m a teacher.On April 6, I left for work early and was able to kiss Shepard and Ali goodbye. I will never forget him looking over for me and smiling. Shepard had been going to the in-home daycare for five days when Ali took him on that Monday. He had his first runny nose that weekend and had woken up that morning with congestion, but he was in good spirits, so we were not overly worried. Ali had messaged the daycare provider about using a rock’n’play for sleeping so that Shepard could be inclined instead of having to lie on his back. Originally she agreed, but when Ali arrived and she saw what it was, she said she could not let him sleep in it. In fact, she confided that she had been cited by DHS 11 days earlier for allowing another infant to fall asleep in a swing, and that they had told her how dangerous both carseats and swings were for babies to sleep in. On that Monday, as Ali was unpacking her diaper bag realized that she had forgotten the bottles so she had to run back home. She was very concerned about Shepard getting sick if she were to lay him down flat for his naps. So while she was home she grabbed her Ergo 360 carrier that our childcare giver had used before so she wouldn’t have to put him down at all if she didn’t want to. Ali also requested a doctor’s note for our childcare giver so she would also have the option to use the rock’n’play. When Ali returned, the childcare giver reported that she had come up with a plan. She would sit the rock’n’play in front of the couch so Shepard could nap in it; so if DHS stopped by to “check on her” she could just pick him up and answer the door with him. This ensured she wouldn’t get in trouble. So Ali, feeling confident the attention Shepard would be getting would be more than sufficient, left to go to her morning meetings and notified our childcare giver that our doctor was faxing her the note for the rock’n’play at 9:45am.At 12:51pm the daycare provider called Ali and told her she needed to come quickly. Ali was in Shawnee, on her way to Earlsboro. The childcare giver reported that Shepard was not breathing. She had called 911 and a police officer and EMT’s had responded. Ali asked her to give the phone to an EMT and after speaking with him, she knew that the prognosis wasn’t good. Ali then called me. In the middle of teaching a class I had to answer the phone to Ali saying I had to go, Shepard wasn’t breathing. I ran to the truck and drove way too fast to the daycare providers home. When I arrived, they were wheeling out my son on a stretcher. They were still working on him, but told me that they had yet to get his heart going or him breathing on his own. As I rode in the van in front of the ambulance, I had to prepare myself for life without my son. When we arrived at the hospital, as they wheeled him past me into the E.R. I gave him a kiss on the forehead. He was cold. I met Ali in the E.R. As they were working on our son, the attending physician came over and told us that they would try another push of epinephrine and two more rounds of CPR and then they would have to call it. Surrounded by doctors and nurses with looks of pity, police officers, detectives, and DHS officials waiting to interview us, we had to say goodbye to our son, intubated on a stretcher.Unbeknownst to us, our childcare provider had been in a educated by DHS for the swing violation (given on 3/26/15) where she was specifically counseled about safe sleep practices. On 3/27/15 DHS returned the next day due to the serious violation she was reminded the dangers of putting a child in a swing. It’s documented in her public file that our childcare giver, on 3/27/15, specifically inquired about infants napping in their carseats. DHS told her no and that sleeping in the carseat was a dangerous practice and would increase the chances of SIDS. She was told this just 10 DAYS before she chose to put our child unbuckled in a carseat on the floor, swaddled, where he wiggled down until he lost his airway and suffocated to death. He was unable to alert anyone to the terrible trouble he was in because the door was closed and there was no monitor to catch his struggle. In addition, our childcare provider was distracted by her friend who had stopped by around lunchtime so she could drop off her two year old while she went and had lunch with some other moms. TWO HOURS had passed before she finally checked on Shepard and found him completely blue.The childcare provider has never been charged with any crime. Shepard's case is still open and we are hopeful as a family that justice will find her in this world or the next. This was not an accident. She knew that a car seat was not safe for sleep and that two hours is too long to leave an infant behind a closed door. Shepard’s death does not have to be in vain. Unsafe sleep surfaces are a REAL danger. We are looking to focus the attention to safe sleep standards so they can protect Oklahoman’s children from negligent decisions.

Posted by Shepard's Watch on Thursday, July 16, 2015

“Shepard’s death doesn’t have to be in vain,” Derek explained. “Unsafe sleep surfaces are a REAL danger. We’re looking to focus the attention on safe sleep standards so they can protect Oklahoma’s children from negligent decisions.”

As written on their non-profit page, “every baby deserves to wake up.”