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Next Thursday, Candace Harding is having a baby.
The single mother of three said that, for the most part, she's ready for the newcomer and welcomes the addition to her family. Except, as of yesterday, she still doesn't have a place for the newborn to sleep.
Ms. Harding, 24, is one of many expectant mothers in the county caught up in a battle between the nonprofit agency that administers a free Beds for Babies program and the company that is supposed to deliver the cribs.
The Collaborative Network purchased 250 baby beds from USA Baby in May and paid for the order in advance. Although the Illinois-based company has cashed the $30,000 check, not one bed has been delivered to Lucas County, said Meliss Klorer, director of the Collaborative Network.
"I paid for these beds and, right now, I'm out this money until [the company] can produce these beds or refund me," she said. "I feel we were lied to consistently and repeatedly."
Ms. Klorer said she felt comfortable writing a check for the beds because the Collaborative Network has worked with USA Baby since 2002 and always has received the orders at a discounted price. She said it was because of the past relationship that she believed company officials when they said that the beds were on the way.
After several disappointing weeks, Ms. Klorer called the suppliers to confirm that the beds were shipped. She said both companies said they spoke to USA Baby but that no order was actually made.
The Collaborative Network is now contemplating legal action.
"We've told the moms that we were waiting for [the beds] to arrive. When we were told they were in Chicago, I told them they were in Chicago. That was six weeks now," Ms. Klorer said. "Now we keep calling or the moms keep calling, and everyone is told that they're on their way. It's been one lie after another."
A call to USA Baby in Lombard, Ill., was not returned. The Blade also tried USA Baby on Monroe Street late yesterday and was told that no one was available to discuss the matter until today.
According to the company's Web site, the stores are franchised and therefore are individually owned.
The Beds for Babies program was started by Lucas County in September, a reaction to the county's incidents of death by SIDS, or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Although the Collaborative Network had been giving out cribs to low-income mothers for years, it was the county's push to keep infants safe that expanded the program.
In February, county commissioners allocated $68,750 to purchase 500 cribs for low-income families through federal Temporary Assistance to Needy Families funds.
Tina Skeldon Wozniak, president of the commissioners, said that because the federal money can be used only as a reimbursement, the Collaborative Network can't be paid until the mothers actually receive the beds.
"The issue that we're concerned about is that this nonprofit is out $30,000, and they deliver services for underserved families," Ms. Wozniak said.
According to the Toledo-Lucas County health department, the rate of deaths attributed to SIDS in the county as of 2004 was 1.39 for every 1,000 babies born. Statewide, that number was 0.61 for every 1,000 babies born.
SIDS is defined as the sudden, unexplained death of a baby younger than 1 year old. According to research, babies who are placed to sleep on their side or stomach and babies who are put to sleep on soft surfaces, such as a couch, have an increased risk of dying from SIDS.
Ms. Harding, who lives in South Toledo, said the crib she has used for her other children can't be used for her new baby because her 11-month-old daughter, Cheyenne Carpenter, is not old enough for a toddler bed.
She said she was first approved for a new crib nearly five months ago. Now, with only a week left before her scheduled Caesarean section, she's considering her options.
"Right now, we're trying to find a bassinet or a traveling bassinet, something temporary," she said. "I'm crossing my fingers and hoping and praying that they get the cribs by the 16th."
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