A daycare cautionary tale

by DaniGirl on October 31, 2007 · 12 comments

in Working and mothering

I’ve been following a story in the media here about an unlicensed child care provider who has been arrested and charged with forcible confinement and obstructing police. The story was first published yesterday, with details of how the parents of 11 children, ages one to four, were called to come and pick up their children at the care provider’s home after police and paramedics raided the home following complaints by two sets of parents. I couldn’t help but imagine what it must have been like for those parents to get that call out of the blue in the middle of the day… “Come and pick up your kids, the police and paramedics have shut down your daycare.”

Today, the follow-up story said that four of the youngest children, all under the age of two, were “forcibly confined” in a playpen in the furnace room of the home during the day.

I’m chilled by this story because it could have so easily been me, been my kids. The article quoted one parent as saying “he had not seen the place where the children stayed during the day, and never thought to ask because he had known [the daycare provider] for the past 10 years and trusted her.” A part of me wants to rail against the parents for not being more diligent, but who am I kidding? I had only the vaguest idea of what was going on with the kids during the day when they were in home care, and almost all of that came from what they told me. Sure, when we first signed up with a care provided, I asked to see the places where the kids would eat and sleep and play, but after those first couple of meetings, the furthest I usually went into the house was the front hallway to help put on or take off boots and coats. When I think about the amount of trust that is built into a daycare relationship, and the very few checks and balances we put into the system, it makes me a little bit queasy.

Even though I’ve been researching (and ranting on) daycare issues for a while now, there were issues that these articles have clarified for me. In Ontario, an unlicensed care provider can provide care to a maximum of five children under 10 years of age and unrelated to her, regardless of how many caregivers are present. I always thought that if there was another adult present, the caregiver was allowed to take on more kids, but apparently that’s not the case. The fines are significant, too, topping out at $2000 per day. I can think of two or three caregivers I know personally in the neighbourhood who might want to take note of this… although it would take an unsatisfied parent or disgruntled neighbour reporting them to the authorities to set any kind of fine in motion, because there doesn’t seem to be any kind of infrastructure for the review of unlicenced care in Ontario.

A related article in today’s Citizen also noted that “according to the City of Ottawa, there are 17,247 spots available at licensed child care facilities within the city — but there are 12,000 children on the waiting list.” Another stat extrapolates to the province as a whole: “For the 1.919 million Ontario children under the age of 12, there were only 229,875 licensed child care spots.”

What this means to me as a parent is that I’m over the barrel when it comes to child care. It’s a sellers’ market for child care, and now that I’m lucky enough to have someone I trust with the boys, I’m terrified to do anything to jeopardize that relationship. I’m honouring our initial contract with our nanny through May, even though I’ll be home with the boys starting in January. No doubt, it will be great to have an extra set of hands to help with the new baby for those first bleary couple of weeks, but I’m thinking it’s going to get pretty redundant after a month or so when the extra $350 a week would come in really handy. But, I don’t want to rock the childcare boat lest I find myself scrambling – again. And that’s a slippery slope indeed, and exactly how parents develop the kind of willful obliviousness that lets an extreme situation like the one in those articles happen.

Back in the day, when I first started looking into child care for Tristan, I actually had a preference for unlicensed care because of the flexibility it offered. Now, my first preference is for licensed care, and when The Player to be Named Later is born, I’ll put all three boys back into the system on waiting lists for licensed, in-home care. It didn’t work out for us last time, but maybe with a year’s lead time, we’ll get lucky. In an ideal world, our sweet nanny will still be available… but I can’t afford to bet on it. In the end, it’s not like my preferences matter anyway, because in a market like this, sometimes you just have to take whatever you can get… and that’s a sad and scary thought.

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

1 dean dad October 31, 2007 at 8:19 am

Good luck, Dani. It’s a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad system out there, unworthy of our kids. But you’ve done a great job of navigating it, and it seems that Tristan and Simon are thriving.

The Player to be Named Later (love that!) is a lucky little guy.

2 Kathryn October 31, 2007 at 10:02 am

Man, that is scary. I must say I had a run-in with a bad daycare too, though not with my own kids.
I took my boys to the park by our house one morning and saw about 12 kids there with 3 adults. There were 3 huge industrial lawn mowers going and as I got closer to the playground I saw a baby (about 3 or 4 months old I would guess) lying on the grass next to the play area when a woman was pushing two toddlers on the swings. The grass was still wet with dew. The baby was bawling. The woman went over, rolled the baby on his tummy and went back to the toddlers. Now the baby’s face was in the wet grass (poor little man wasn’t even on a blanket) and he could only lift his head for a bit at a time.
My first thought was that this mom was taking care of daycare kids (the toddlers) and was a little over-wrought with her crying baby. I walked over to the baby and started talking to him to calm him down. Didn’t work, and the lawn mowers were getting closer and louder. I think the poor baby was scared to death. I asked the lady if I could pick him up (to give her a hand, maybe?)but she said no. Apparently, he was part of the daycare and because I didn’t work there I wasn’t allowed to pick him up. I told her I think she should pick him up, he is very scared. She said she knows but her boss (one of the other women at the park) wouldn’t let her. ????? I tried patting him on the back but then boss lady came over and told me I couldn’t touch him. I told her he is probably scared of the lawn mowers and should be picked up.
I went on to have a very long “discussion” (which almost turned into a shouting match) on how if I was that baby’s mother I would FREAK OUT if I knew my child was treated like that. She kept telling me he is fine. I told her I wanted to get her daycare number, and by that point I was sick to my stomach watching this poor kid screaming. She was not deterred, and would not pick him up. She said he was just off his feeding schedule and wanted to eat, but that she couldn’t feed him yet, it was too early. I told her that he is soaking wet in an unfamiliar area with industrial lawn mowers 15 yards from his head!!!! She proceeded to tell me that it is healthy to let babies cry.
I know that when babies are a bit older, in the safety of their cribs, warm and dry, it is ok to let them cry for a while. I did it with all my boys, but this was a completely different situation.
Finally I got out my cell phone and acted like I was calling someone about it. That FINALLY got her to pick the kid up and give him a bottle.
As you can probably tell, that still bothers me, and it happened months ago.
It is so scary that parents have to put their faith in people to protect and care for their most important asset, and this is what can happen. And this was not even a severe abuse situation. Just makes me sick.
It sounds like you have a good day care, and I can see why you wouldn’t want to do anything to jeopordize that. A good day care is more precious than gold.

3 Ann D October 31, 2007 at 10:07 am

That is so horrible — the stuff of which every parent’s worst nightmares are made.

4 Jojo October 31, 2007 at 10:20 am

Yes, my partner and I have been following this story as well. As an emotional pregnant woman and as a former childcare worker, I think that this is horrible. Kathryn, your story is really awful as well.

Whenever friends ask me for advice on finding good childcare, I always offer this:

-drop in to where the care is taking place without calling first
-feel comfortable to ask about how the day went if they don’t offer you the details of feedings, incidents, etc.
-don’t be afraid to ask for references and get ahold of them!
-Lastly, if you can’t communicate with your child about their day, trust your gut-instinct!

5 Laura October 31, 2007 at 1:28 pm

so scary that this occurred in our own backyard….I am so lucky to have a flexible work day so that I do not need day care at all for my 3 little ones…thank goodness…I would be a nervous wreck!

6 Meghan October 31, 2007 at 2:20 pm

Notice how the whole day care issue never was discussed during the most recent Ontario election?
The issue is no longer a priority!
I can’t believe it!

7 nomotherearth October 31, 2007 at 3:24 pm

Well I’m just a mess now. How can anyone do such a thing?? It really shocks me that people can be so cruel. Finding daycare is a huge issue in our part of the city. This scares me so much.

8 Kathryn October 31, 2007 at 9:02 pm

Shoot. Didn’t mean to freak you out even more. I think you are doing everything right with your daycare, and it sounds like a good one. I agree with Jojo on the stopping in without calling. That has got to be one of the best indicators. Plus, if your children look forward to going, I don’t think you have anything to worry about. Every child has days where they want to be with mum, but if for the most part your child is happy to be there, that is a great sign. 🙂

9 yvonne November 1, 2007 at 7:08 am

This is what stops me from having more children. Otherwise, I would have had a bigger family.

10 DaniGirl November 1, 2007 at 7:22 am

Kathryn, that truly is a horrifying story. I’m just glad you had the sense, and the courage, to do something about it. Jojo, that is good advice – thanks for that.

11 rosey November 1, 2007 at 11:38 am

it saddens me about daycare weather is private or licenced … ive had a bad experiecnes with even a licenced home daycare so i dont think it just home private daycare . it happens everywhere , its up to the parents to be delingent on their child and watch for their moods and like some say pop in at any time to check and i know some home daycare do tend to watch few too many just cause they are in for the money or need money but can be pretty good as long as the kids are well cared and babies are happy thats way i see it
my experiences with my 6 year old then was only 18 mths old used to shriek when i dropped her off so i relyed on my 3 year old to tell me what happen and she said that she was left crying and didnt get much attention just locked in basement and the caregiver didnt play with them and i didnt like her and complained to the agency but was stuck for a couple weeks .. all i could do is file a complaint with them and pray for hte best i had said if anything happend to my child i will be very mad so they went for a surprised visit few times a week and stayed at least few hours at each time so that made me feel better … like i said go with your gut feelings and use ur good judgement on the person
and watch your children how do they respond when u drop ur kids off is good cue ….

12 Mac and Cheese November 1, 2007 at 10:35 pm

That is chillingly scary.

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