The tragic death of two-year-old Eva Ravikovich who died in an unlicensed home daycare that was clearly overrun with children has spurred lawsuits against both the daycare provider and the Ministry of Education. The toddler's parents, Ekaterina Evtropova and Vycheslav Ravikovich, are suing for $3.5-million.
While the lawsuits seem perfectly justifiable, there is one more party that is arguably culpable in the death of this little girl: Her parents.
Unless Eva's parents were completely unaware that the home daycare they selected was crowded and exceeded the legal limit of children allowed, they must share some of the blame in their daughter's untimely death.
Unlicensed home daycares are permitted to care for up to five children under the age of ten. This particular home, located in Vaughan, allegedly had more than 35 kids enrolled, according to York Region Public Health.
With such an overabundance of children, it would be difficult for parents not to notice that something was amiss. Sure, an extra child or two might go unnoticed. But thirty extra children? Unless the daycare operator is some kind of Houdini, it is nearly impossible to hide the fact that the place was literally overflowing with little ones.
Several of the parents who spoke with the Toronto Star recently claimed that they were never permitted inside the daycare home.
Children were picked up and dropped off, or the parents were made to wait outside until their child was escorted out, which should serve as a huge red flag. If a daycare operator is unable or unwilling to welcome parents into the facility, to see how things operate on a day-to-day basis, parents must wonder why this is the case. Does the daycare operator have something to hide, such as too many children, unsanitary conditions or other possible concerns?
Some of the parents admitted that the cost of this particular daycare was considerably cheaper than any other, with prices ranging from $6,600 to $7,200 per year. (Just as a frame of reference, many full-time daycare spots demand nearly twice this amount.)
Surely most, if not all, of the parents must have known that there were way more children attending the daycare than is legally permitted. One must presume that the parents turned a blind eye to this transgression because the care was so much less expensive than other facilities or they could not find any other openings. Either way, parents must accept some of the responsibility in this case.
At the end of the day, it is mothers and fathers who are ultimately responsible for the health and well-being of their children. If a parent visits a daycare facility that is clearly breaking the law, the parent should file a report with the authorities and keep looking for a different solution.
One cannot expect a single daycare provider to be equipped to supervise 35 children safely, especially when so many of the kids are toddlers and require constant care and attention. It is just not humanly possible.
So while the parents are clearly suffering and are owed answers, as well as a possible monetary verdict, they must also face tough questions and perhaps be met with a lawsuit or charges of their own. After all, Eva is the true victim in this case and she deserved better than to be left at a daycare facility that was bursting at the seams with children. She deserved to reach her third birthday and beyond. She deserved someone who would look out for her interests, someone who would fight for her and protect her.
In a tearful news conference, Eva's mother explains the reason for the $3.5-million lawsuit: "I do not want this to happen to any other parent, to any other family, to any other kid," exclaimed Evtropova. "It's devastating. It's just wrong."
She is absolutely right. The daycare provider, if found guilty of breaking the law and attempting to care for more children than is legally allowed, should be dealt with harshly. Especially since the alleged transgression is so over the top.
The Ministry of Education should also face severe consequences. Government officials have already admitted that it failed to adequately investigate two complaints received regarding the excessive number of children at the Vaughan daycare. Although two investigators have now been suspended, a financial settlement is likely due.
But when little Eva's parents have collected their grandiose lawsuit monies, one hopes that they will be held to account for the role they played -- or failed to play -- in the death of this innocent girl.
Lydia Lovric is a former opinion writer and broadcaster, turned stay-at-home mom. This article originally appeared in The Hamilton Spectator. www.lydialovric.com