Parents struggle to grieve after toddler dies following unlicensed day home visit
The family of Ceira McGrath continues to search for answers after their healthy 18 month old girl died after spending time in the care of an unlicensed centre that remains in operation after the incident.
“We want to grieve but we have so many unanswered questions, and this happened so suddenly, it’s hard to grieve,” said Tanya Gladwell, Ceira’s mother.
Gladwell and her husband Ryan McGrath left their twins, Ceira and her brother Colby, in the care of the centre operated by Elmarie Simons on November 12, 2015.
The family had attempted to find spots for their children in a licensed facility but they were placed on waiting lists. In Alberta, there are presently enough licensed day care spots to care for 15% of the province’s children under the age of 12.
Emergency crews responded to Simons’ day home, situated on Silverado Ridge Crescent Southwest, after Ceira was found unresponsive that afternoon. EMS transported the young girl to hospital where she was pronounced dead.
“It’s been heartachingly difficult,” said Gladwell. “Every day it’s a struggle to try and find a balance between anger and deep sadness.”
“We have pictures of (Ceira) around and (Colby) often, in his way, tries to say sister and points at them and he’ll often go to her room and wonder why it’s empty.”
The Calgary Police Service Homicide Unit continues to investigate Ceira’s death and awaits final autopsy results.
Simons told CTV Calgary that Ceira had been fussy and refused to nap in a playpen. To put the young girl to sleep, Simons placed her in a car seat, a method the Canadian Pediatric Society advises against. Ceira never awoke.
Ceira’s parents say they would have removed both of their children from the day home had they known car seats were being used to put children to sleep.
McGrath and Gladwell say they’re concerned the day home continues to operate during the investigation into the death that police have deemed suspicious and they want the business closed until the results of Ceira’s final autopsy are released.
“We don’t understand why we don’t know how many children were in the home that day, why she was just up and operating the next day,” said Gladwell. “We’re not aware if a search warrant was ever issued.”
A similar death occurred at an unlicensed day home in Coquitlam, British Columbia in January 2011 when an infant died after being left unattended in a car seat in a bedroom. The Coquitlam day home was closed throughout the police investigation. The operator of the centre received an 18 month sentence after pleading guilty to criminal negligence causing death.
Gladwell and McGrath struggle to understand why Ceira’s death did not prompt the immediate closure of Simons’ home.
“We don’t understand why it’s just not being treated with the same level of caution, and considered as suspicious, as other similar cases that we have seen in Canada,” said Gladwell.
According to police, there are no grounds to close the centre at this time.