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1 year after Baby Mac’s death in a daycare, little has changed

15-month-old Mac died in an accident at daycare in East Vancouver on Jan. 18, 2017. GoFundMe

It’s been a year since the 16-month-old boy known as Baby Mac died in an unlicensed East Vancouver daycare.

Parent complaints led to the operator being investigated four times.

But his parents had no way of knowing that — and for parents looking for childcare today, little has changed.

Children — especially babies and toddlers — can spend months on a waitlist for a space at a licensed daycare.

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And when choosing unlicensed daycares, parents still have no way of knowing whether the provider has faced previous complaints.

Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH), the authority in the region where Baby Mac’s daycare operator worked, said improvements have been made when it comes to its ability to track repeat offenders.

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VCH licensing officers documented five complaints against the woman running Mac’s daycare from 2010 to 2016.

The complaints were tied to daycare she ran at a number of different addresses with the operator using slightly different names.

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Four of the complaints were investigated and each time she was found to be breaching rules by having too many children in her care.

Officers also received complaints that the daycare was being advertised by the owner as being licensed when it wasn’t.

There was no way that Baby Mac’s parents could have known any of this before they chose to send him there because none of this information is released to the public.

“It’s something we are looking into,” said B.C. Children and Family Development Minister Katrine Conroy. “There are issues around privacy issues but it is something we are looking into.”

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Section of the report into Baby Mac’s death.
Section of the report into Baby Mac’s death.  
Section of the report into Baby Mac’s death.  .

The Fraser, Island and Interior health authorities investigated 114 complaints in 2017; many of them focused on facilities that had more than the two kids they were permitted to.

The owner of Baby Mac’s daycare was never fined.

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“We need to ensure that when childcare providers are acting outside their legal operating mandate that they need to be identified and held accountable,” Conroy said.

Things need to improve, she added — and the ministry is working to see that changes are made, according to her.

“I want to assure the family and the public that this important work is underway and it will be featured in the upcoming legislative session,” Conroy said.

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Premier John Horgan, who keeps a picture of Mac in his office, said meeting the baby’s parents during the campaign last year had a profound effect on him.

He promised to make things better.

“That’s my New Year’s resolution, is to make sure that we don’t have this conversation a year from now,” said Horgan.

“The commitment I made was that Baby Mac’s death would not be in vain and that we would, as a new government, given the opportunity, make sure that parents like them were not put into that situation.”

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Horgan said he remains committed to his election promise of creating a childcare system where parents are certain their kids’ daycare is safe.

“Have we made enough progress? I would say no. And we need to make more progress on a range of issues,” he said.

The February budget is expected to show how the government plans to make that progress.

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Vancouver Coastal Health said the daycare operator stopped offering care after baby Mac’s death.

They also noted that “the vast majority” of daycares provide safe and appropriate care.

Unlicensed daycares can register voluntarily — about 400 in the province have done so.

Mac’s parents Shelley Sheppard and Chris Saini have become advocates for $10-a-day daycare since their son’s death.

WATCH: B.C. childcare advocates urge for more affordable daycare space

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B.C. childcare advocates urge for more affordable daycare space

Unlicensed daycares can take in two kids who are not related, while licensed facilities have specific staff-to-child ratios according to ages.

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Where licensed daycares are inspected regularly, unlicensed ones are not, unless there’s a complaint.

As for the Vancouver Police Department’s investigation into Baby Mac’s death, that has been with Crown since mid-December.

They are reviewing the information to assess if charges may be warranted.

 

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