After Cambridge childcare worker Sandra Camara heard about the death of a toddler left strapped into a car seat for eight hours in Bancroft in the summer of 2022, she was shaken to her core.
Knowing how common these types of accidental deaths are, Camara knew she had to do something to stop it from happening to another parent, so, she contacted Cambridge MPP Brian Riddell with an idea that would eventually become provincial legislation.
"This should never have to happen again and when I heard about the little boy in Bancroft, I felt sick to my stomach," said Camara of the incident that led to a new law designed to help prevent such a tragedy from happening again.
Camara recalled an incident in her own experience when a parent was supposed to drop off his child at her daycare but didn't show up. When she called wondering where the boy was, the father answered on his way to work and discovered he'd forgotten to drop off his son who was asleep in the back seat.
"I'm grateful I called, because who knows if he would have realized he was back there," she said.
After hearing about the toddler's death in Bancroft, the Cambridge daycare worker contacted Riddell and floated a simple idea.
In her letter to Riddell, she asked for changes to the Child Care and Early Years Act (CCEYA) that would require licensed and non-licensed home care workers to call parents if they are at least 30 minutes late for drop-off.
If they are unable to reach the parents or have not heard back from them in five minutes, the parents' place of employment should be contacted followed by the listed emergency contact.
"This could literally save lives and the small burden or increased liability for me as a child care worker is worth it if it saves one child's life," added Camara.
Riddell liked the idea and put forth a motion last spring that ultimately led the creation of the Safe Arrival and Dismissal Policy, which will take effect Jan. 1, 2024.
“Following the heartbreaking tragedy of the loss of a child, we have the responsibility and obligation to enhance the safety of our youngest learners in child care,” said Stephen Lecce, minister of education in a press release.
According to the release, this policy will ensure that when a child does not arrive at the licensed child care program or is not picked up as expected, parents will be informed in line with existing protocols within Ontario’s publicly funded schools.
This closes a gap that will protect children from exceptional and preventable tragedies.
"Nothing is more important to parents than the safety of their children. And I say that as the father of two sons," said Riddell in an email to CambridgeToday.
On Friday in Brampton, Lecce announced a memorandum that will soon require all licensed child care providers to have a safe arrival and dismissal policy in place.
"I applaud the minister for making yesterday’s announcement possible. Ontario has needed this for a long time," Riddell said.
Camara is hoping this policy will take off and be used in other provinces across the country in hopes of saving as many lives as possible.
"My next step is to send this to the United States, because they have a way bigger problem than we do," she said. "Something so simple could save so many lives and I'm glad Riddell and Lecce stepped up and made this change happen."