Daycare or day-scare?


THE media has been having a field day reporting the deaths of two infants at a childcare centre in Ampang. The preliminary findings of the Health Department indicate that the two little ones did not die of infections.

Would this be a case of child negligence on the part of the daycare centre? Imagine the distress the parents must be facing – to know that the people they entrusted (and paid) to care for their little ones for the eight to nine hours they were at work had betrayed that trust and cost the lives of their babies.

Child negligence in daycare centres is not a new thing, nor is it confined to our shores. A quick browse through international news sites revealed that many other countries also face a similar problem where many children all over the world are subject to some form of child negligence in daycare centres.

Most parents in this day and age find themselves with no choice but to send their children to daycare centres while they are out daily, making a living.

Things were a lot more different some 40 years ago where most families were still reliant on a sole breadwinner – the husband, while wives could still afford to stay home and care for the children.

Even back then, when both husband and wife were working, they could still rely on family members – such as the grandparents of the children to help care for the young ones while they were away at work.

But today, many young parents find themselves having to move away from their home towns and even home states and their own parents to make a living.

To run a daycare centre, one needs to have a license and professional qualifications as a childcare-giver. Unfortunately, many daycare centres are only out to make a profit – at most times taking in more children than they can handle, and at the same time, lacking in trained childcare personnel.

The Eye has witnessed friends’ toddlers coming straight home from daycare in disposable diapers that should have been changed hours before. And yes, this too is a form of negligence in childcare.

Which brings us to the many facets of childcare negligence – physical, emotional and health, which we often face with daycare centres.

Physical negligence can be something as simple as, mentioned before, not changing a baby or a toddler’s diaper. It is not a question of saving costs on diapers – expecting the child to make the most of the disposable diaper. It is purely a matter of physical hygiene, if left to continue it could cause discomfort and even health issues.

This inevitably leads to negligence in the health of a child. The Eye is sure many parents here have often gone to pick up their children and found that there are other children at the centre having colds and coughs. Shouldn’t the parents of these children been informed earlier so that they could decide whether they wanted to leave their kids there for the day, or seek medical treatment?

Some parents are also to blame for allowing their sick children to go to daycare, without regard for the other children who may catch the same illness.

There are also chances of emotional negligence taking place in daycare centres that are low on resources and high in the number of children. The ratio of caregiver to child in some daycare centres can sometimes reach one caregiver to more than 10 children, which is not a good thing at all.

By law, the ratio for a caregiver to a child is set at one caregiver to five children for those aged three and below and one caregiver to 10 children for those aged between three and four.

The ages of between one and five are vital years for a child’s emotional development. Their emotional needs for love, security and affection are high at this point and the Eye (who although may not be an expert on child upbringing) believes that neglecting these needs can hamper the child’s emotional development.

Of course, we say that the authorities should monitor daycare centres closely. But which authority has the right to step in and say that things are not done right? And which authority has the right to step in to unregistered daycare centres to tell them to halt operations?

The Welfare Department’s director general made a statement recently that the department does not have the authority to blacklist any unregistered childcare centre found negligent to the extent of causing the death of a child under its care.

How scary is this statement?

Which authority is supposed to monitor and shutdown illegal daycare centres? Do we have to wait till something happens to a child before action is taken?

They say that parents have to be more aware and alert when it comes to their choice of daycare centres. This is true. In most cases, daycare centres will, of course, provide a rosy front to promote their businesses, but yet, on a daily basis, fail to meet the standards of basic childcare.

Parents, on the other hand, should not be afraid to make reports to the authorities – police, Health Department or Welfare Department – should they feel that the daycare centre, registered or otherwise, does not meet their expectations.

When we send our children to caregivers, we want to be assured that we are sending them to those who are genuinely interested in, and dedicated to, caring for the young ones and are professionally trained to do so. Not to opportunists who see childcare as a lucrative business. Not a day-scare centre.