OSSINING, N.Y. – An Ossining woman received three years’ probation Wednesday for child endangerment after a 5-month-old infant died in her care last year.
Maria Villaloja, who ran an illegal home day care facility on Croton Avenue, previously pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor charge after 5-month-old Monica Yunga reportedly died of suffocation in her care in April 2011, according to the Westchester County District Attorney's Office.
The sentencing of Villaloja came a week after the District Attorney’s Office launched a public health campaign to educate parents after finding that 26 infant fatalities had occurred since 2006 as a result of unsafe sleeping conditions.
Cynthia Rivers, who has worked as a child care provider in an Ossining home for 10 years, said she was appalled when she found out that Villaloja did not have a license to practice child care.
“Anyone who is doing this illegally is really putting children at risk,” Rivers said Thursday. “It’s really hard to do this. I think it was absolutely crazy that she was doing it illegally. The responsibility that goes into taking care of a child is tremendous, and if you’re not properly licensed you’re leaving yourself out there as a target, and you’re putting the lives of other people’s children in danger.”
Rivers added that many parents do not take the proper steps in finding child care providers.
“It’s a big responsibility and it needs to be done by someone with a license,” she said. “Parents need to check with the Westchester Child Care Council and be careful who you leave your child with. You should learn as much about them as possible.”
Some parents don’t look past the bottom line, Rivers said.
“They always look at the price and that’s it,” she said. “Even though someone might be cheap, you need to be absolutely sure who it is you leave your child with. Cheap is not always good. Especially when they’re taking care of your children.”