‘Massive reform’ of child care urged

Sunday, January 29th, 2017

Call comes after boy dies at unlicensed daycare

Bethany Lindsay
The Province

Flowers were left outside an unlicensed daycare on Kitchener Street in Vancouver, where 16-month-old Macallan Wayne Saini died earlier this month. ARLEN REDEKOP/ FILES

Some Vancouver families are echoing the call for an overhaul of B.C.’s child care system, following a heartfelt plea for reform from the grieving parents of a toddler who died at a daycare earlier this month.

Shelley Sheppard and Chris Saini lost their 16-month-old son Macallan Wayne Saini while he was being cared for at an unlicensed facility on Kitchener Street near Commercial Drive, and are now calling for a “massive reform.”

Police say the death is not considered suspicious, but the circumstances that led to it remain under investigation.

For Anna Tran, a registered nurse with a 15-month-old daughter, the struggle to find safe and reliable child care hits close to home. She’s on waiting lists for three licensed daycares.

“It’s been really challenging,” Tran said. “The first couple of weeks on mat leave you take your time, don’t get too worried.”

But as the end of her maternity leave approached, she felt increasingly desperate for a solution. She seriously considered two unlicensed daycares, even though one was caring for more children than the law allows and the other left her feeling uneasy. She eventually decided to pay the extra money to hire a nanny.

Vancouver Coastal Health requires licences for all daycare facilities caring for three or more children. It’s not clear how many children were in the care of the unlicensed facility where Macallan died. No one answered the door of the daycare on Friday afternoon.

Licensed daycares are inspected at least once a year to check for compliance with provincial regulations, says VCH spokeswoman Anna Marie D’Angelo. There are no similar requirements for unlicensed arrangements.

“We act on complaints … any time we are made aware of any possible licensing infraction,” D’Angelo wrote in an email.

Jodie Wickens, the NDP’s new critic for early childhood development and child care, said she was heartbroken over Macallan’s death. Her party is campaigning for $10-a-day daycare across the province.

“The position families are put in is to make really tough decisions about the care … because they’re in desperation,” she said.

“There is no reason that we can’t provide better than what children have today in a province like British Columbia. It should be one of our No. 1 priorities.”

According to the Ministry of Children and Family Development, the province has created more than 4,300 new licensed child care spaces since 2014, with the goal of reaching 13,000 by 2020. Minister Stephanie Cadieux has said the $10-a-day plan isn’t affordable.

“We acknowledge the challenges that many parents face when trying to balance raising a family with pursuing work and training opportunities — and we recognize that access to quality child care is an important part of finding that balance,” a ministry spokesperson wrote in an email.

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