By Steve Moran

See part 1 of our response to the recent Washington Post series here. See part 2 here.

Let’s imagine for a moment the Washington Post did a story on the death and abuse of kids in the daycare system in this country. Would we feel sorry for the industry, for the good players?

Or …

Would we be outraged?

In another publication, a senior living leader did some math based on the Washington Post data:

“Even taking it at face value, fatalities due to wandering are 0.0015% of the more than 6.2 million assisted living residents served in the last five years.”

Normal journalistic practice would be for me to provide a citation for this quote. It is purposely omitted because that would cast a negative light on the leader and the other publication, which obscures the main point of this article.

It is 100% a tiny number — until you apply it to child care or airlines.

Childcare in Comparison

One estimate suggests there are approximately 12,500,000 children who receive at least some out-of-home, non-family care each week. Now let’s apply that 0.0015% wander rate fatalities to that number. If I did the math right, it comes out to more than 18,000 fatalities. We would be outraged if there were 18,000 fatalities, and in fact, no one would trust their children to daycare. There would be lawsuits, hearings, and new regulations.

It’s not the same, for sure. Childcare is a few hours a day, more tightly regulated (at least in terms of staffing), and not 24/7. But it provides some perspective.

Air Travel

We all know — and the airline industry knows — it is impossible to make flying 100% safe. Inevitably, airplanes will crash, even in the United States. The unrelenting goal is zero crashes and zero fatalities. Airlines work really, really hard at it. It is actually the most important thing they do.

There are approximately 2.9 million passengers who fly each day in the U.S. But that is a relatively short period of time. Let’s assume 2.9 million in a year. At 0.0015% that would still be more than 4,000 deaths per year, or 30 crashes a year.

My Biggest Fear

My biggest fear is that things will go on as before. We will feel unfairly picked on and write this off as sensationalist journalists simply trolling for reads. In truth, there are way too many communities that run short-staffed because they are trying to control costs or because they can’t find people.

I have talked to so many executive directors who are so afraid something like this will happen but are not provided the resources to staff to safe levels. We can play the victim, or we can look at what happened, talk to our staff about this story, and make a commitment to never have that happen in our communities.

We should never in any fashion find some low, low number good enough. There is only one good enough number, and that is zero. What happened in Colorado was the senseless death of an older person who was paying thousands of dollars a month to be protected. And that death came after hours of suffering in the cold with a broken bone.

We should be as outraged as the people commenting on the article are. But I am not sure I have seen any industry outrage at all.