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FACT FINDER: How to find a safe daycare your family can afford

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What's the COST of keeping your kids safe? We are helping you answer that question. It's new information in a WSBT 22 Fact Finder investigation.

We've heard from a lot of you since our story aired on Indiana daycare dangers. Kelli Stopczynski is digging deeper -- with a way to help YOU find a SAFE daycare that works for YOUR family.

If you have kids and they're in daycare, you probably know finding one can be hard and they can be INCREDIBLY expensive. But you should also know Indiana has a free service to help you choose child care that is overseen by the state and within your budget."That's what it's about. The more kids you have, the more money you can bring in."

Dave and Nova Brettell say they paid their friend of 25 years -- Dana Shell -- to watch their 2-year-old daughter Haley and 18-month-old son Payton.

"I trusted her with everything I had," Nova told us.

But Payton died in august 2012 after shell put him in a car seat for his nap and fastened the chest strap, but not the straps around his legs. A coroner ruled he died from positional asphyxia -- suffocated by that chest strap.

"It was summer, kids were out of school. I think she took on more kids than she could possibly handle at that time," said Dave.

Investigators say Shell was watching at least 10 kids that day. The Bretells later found out the daycare was "illegal" -- the state didn't know it existed, so it was never inspected to make sure Shell followed any state laws.

"We want to make sure more families are aware that we're here to help," said Shannon Gage with the Indiana Association for Childcare Resource and Referral.

Gage is a local program director with the non-profit organization. They use a database to help families find childcare that is regulated by the state and affordable.

"I think it's kind of a relief, because sometimes the process can be overwhelming and confusing," Gage told WSBT. "So they know that they have the support they need. We can help them navigate the system."

The Brettels say they know they're not alone, choosing a daycare because they knew Shell and because she was "inexpensive." But they want other parents to learn from what happened to them.

"You get what you pay for, you know?" said Dave.

Here's the Association for Child CareResourceand Referral's website:https://orm.naccrraware.net/orm/ormLogin.action?uid=SOXODVFVF6EL39Q

You can use it to find a daycare that works for you and your family on your budget. You can do it all online, from home.Again, this is a FREE service.

Even if you choose NOT to use that service, here's what experts say you need to do when you're looking for a daycare:

First -- ask the provider if they are licensed or unlicensed. Ask to SEE that license. Then check it out --Here's a link that allows you to see if a licensed daycare has ever been in trouble with the state: https://secure.in.gov/apps/fssa/carefinder/index.html

Also ask what programs or activities they do daily.

And VISIT the daycare while kids are there so you can SEE the provider in action, and check out where your kids will nap, play and eat.

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