News / Vancouver

Toddler's tragic death highlights child care struggle affecting thousands of B.C. parents: advocate

The parents of Macallan Wayne Saini said they had few options when it came to finding child care, and are calling for accountable, safe and affordable daycare

Macallan Wayne Saini was one day away from turning 16-months old when he died.

Shelley Sheppard and Chris Saini/Contributed

Macallan Wayne Saini was one day away from turning 16-months old when he died.

Following a heartbreaking plea for better daycare options from the parents of a toddler who died on Jan. 18, daycare advocate Sharon Gregson says the numbers show that thousands of B.C. parents are being forced to make the same hard choices about who cares for their young children.

“Nearly 360,000 children (in B.C.) have mothers who are in the paid workforce. But we know from the provincial government we’ve only got about 105,000 licenced childcare spaces in this province — that’s group child care and family child care,” said Gregson.

“That’s a whole lot of children that are in the unregulated sector.”

Just a day shy of turning 16 months old, Macallan Wayne Saini died while being cared for in a home in East Vancouver. The cause of death is still unknown.

“We don't want our sweet boy's death to have been in vain. The day care system in British Columbia needs massive reform. Like most parents in BC, we found the choices impossibly limited when it came to day care spaces,” Shelley Sheppard and Chris Saini wrote in a Facebook post.

“Parents are rushed to take the one spot available and pressured into making decisions that may not work for their family. In Mac's memory we will fight for accountable, safe and affordable daycare. The most precious and vulnerable members of our population aren't able to tell us what is happening behind closed doors."

Shelley Sheppard and Chris Saini with Mac. Sheppard and Saini wrote that their child died despite doing

Shelley Sheppard and Chris Saini with Mac. Sheppard and Saini wrote that their child died despite doing "all the checks a diligent parent should do." They believe his death was preventable.

In B.C., a licence is required to operate any child care facility for three children or more who are not related to the caregiver by blood or marriage. That includes group daycares as well as someone caring for children in their home. Vancouver Coastal Health said there was no licenced daycare at the East Vancouver home where Macallan died.

“When your child is in a licenced child care space, whether it’s a licenced family setting or a licenced group setting, it means a licencing officer through the … local health authority visits to make sure that minimal health and safety standards are being complied with,” Gregson explained.

Throughout B.C., there are long waitlists for daycare spots, and Vancouver has the third highest childcare costs in Canada. For a family with a two year old and a four year old, monthly costs can reach $2,200.

For Gregson, the solution is a proposed $10 a day universal childcare system, similar to the provincially-funded system that has been in place in Quebec for 20 years. B.C.’s minister for children and families, Stephanie Cadieux, has said that such a system would cost the government $1.5 billion every year, a figure she has called unaffordable.

In response to Sheppard and Saini’s Facebook post, Cadieux wrote that the incident was tragic, and that an investigation is underway. The B.C. government currently pays $115 million a year to support licenced child care facilities.

“Parents have a number of options when it comes to child care in B.C., including licensed, registered license-not-required, and unlicensed child-care facilities,” says a statement provided to Metro. “To be clear, unlicensed, or license-not-required child-care operations, are not regulated through government the way licensed child care centres are.”

A recent economic analysis found that a $10 a day child care program would boost B.C.’s gross domestic product by $5.8 billion by 2025, with much of that coming from more women joining the workforce and paying taxes. The BC NDP have made $10 a day child care one of their campaign promises.

“If we can afford to invest in bridges and roads and affordable housing, there’s no reason we can’t make an initial investment into the child care system because we know it starts to pay for itself very soon,” Gregson said.

More on