Grieving parents of toddler call for 'massive reform' of daycare system
The parents of a 15-month-old boy who died in an East Vancouver daycare earlier this month are speaking out in the hopes their tragedy will trigger meaningful change.
Shelley Sheppard and Chris Saini lost their son, Macallan, in an incident at a home near Kitchener Street and Commercial Drive on Jan. 18. On Thursday, just over a week later, the grieving couple opened up about their devastation.
"We are so overwhelmed by Mac's death. Losing him has completely shattered us. He was the love of our lives," they said in a heartbreaking letter.
"All we have left now are memories and ashes."
Few details about what happened have been confirmed; the family has only said the toddler was involved in an accident at daycare – a nightmare scenario for any parent.
Unfortunately, Sheppard and Saini had no reassurances to offer families put on edge by their terrible loss.
"We know parents are scared and want to know how this could happen. Please know this: we did all the checks a diligent parent should do. We had lists of things to look for and questions to ask. We signed papers, we were given assurances and promises that made us feel like Mac would be safe and well cared for," they said.
"In the end, this was all meaningless. Mac's death was entirely preventable and we want to make sure this never happens again."
The couple said they can't comment further on the specifics of what happened, but they called on the B.C. government to enact "massive reform" of the daycare system.
Like countless other parents, Sheppard and Saini said they struggled in their search for daycare spaces.
"We found the choices impossibly limited," they said. "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."
They also thanked family, friends and the community for their outpouring of support following the tragedy. An online fundraiser set up to help them with funeral costs and expenses, which indicated that Saini works entirely on commission, raised more than $70,000.
CTV News has confirmed there is no daycare registered or licensed at the Kitchener property's address, though daycares that only care for two children, or a group of siblings, aren't required to register or obtain a licence in B.C.
Two-child daycares can choose to register, which subjects the operators to a criminal record check and a home review. They also must provide physician references and undergo training for first aid and child care.
The East Vancouver home was cordoned off by police for several days after the toddler's death. On Friday, one of the landlords, Karen Kruse, told CTV News she was unaware that a daycare had been operating at the property.
The tenants only moved in back in October and have left since the tragedy, Kruse added.
It's unclear whether any charges are pending, but the Vancouver Police Department said detectives are continuing to investigate the circumstances leading up to Mac's death. The cause is being probed by the BC Coroners Service.
Stephanie Cadiuex, B.C.’s Minister of Child Development and Family, said a provincial investigation is also underway and it’s hoped the family will receive the answers it’s seeking through the process.
"The death of a child is always tragic. It's difficult to read a letter like that, and my heart goes out to this family for their loss,” she said in an emailed statement.
Read the full letter from the parents below:
We are Mac's Mommy and Daddy.
Let us begin by saying we are profoundly appreciative of the support we have received from our families, friends, community and even people we don't know. We are humbled by this outpouring of love during our darkest days.
Today we said goodbye to Macallan Wayne Saini, our perfect baby boy. On January 18, 2017, one day before Mac was to turn 16 months, he was suddenly taken from us.
Mac filled a room with his joy and curiosity. His eyes sparkled and smiled at everyone and everything. Mac was such a happy boy that loved to laugh and play "jokes" on Momma and Dada. He had just learned how to climb on the couch and how to hide in a corner so that he could toddle out and pretend to scare people. He mastered signing "more" and would use it when he was being pushed on the swing so that we wouldn't stop. Mac was very proud of himself whenever he learned a new skill and so were we. These memories of him and his life, these glimpses into what kind of a man he would have become, are all we have now. We will never teach Mac to ride a bike, walk him to school, or see him fall in love. All the things parents dream of.
We know parents are scared and want to know how this could happen. Please know this: we did all the checks a diligent parent should do. We had lists of things to look for and questions to ask. We signed papers, we were given assurances and promises that made us feel like Mac would be safe and well cared for. In the end, this was all meaningless. Mac's death was entirely preventable and we want to make sure this never happens again. We cannot comment further on the details of his death.
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. 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. We in BC need to know that when our children are away from us that they will not be harmed and that they are treated with care and respect. No other mother should ever have to see the love of her life lying dead on the floor. No father should have to load his son's casket into a crematorium furnace.
We are so overwhelmed by Mac's death. Losing him has completely shattered us. He was the love of our lives. Our heart. Our joy. Our everything.
All we have left now are memories and ashes.
Shelley Sheppard and Chris Saini