LAST_UPDATEThu, 19 Jul 2018 11pm

Daycare Nightmare For Parents

Cases of children being abused when under the care of daycare centres should remind parents that it is crucial to evaluate and check if a childcare provider is licensed/UNICEFCases of children being abused when under the care of daycare centres should remind parents that it is crucial to evaluate and check if a childcare provider is licensed/UNICEFTHE hidden camera video footage jolted the nation. It showed a child 2 years of age, crying profusely after being struck repeatedly by a daycare centre caretaker.

It was the epitome of every parent’s nightmare.

Every morning, working mothers transfer the responsibility of childcare temporarily to strangers at daycare centres.   

This has become an accepted practice in most middle-class neighbourhoods. Today, almost every housing area in the city has an obligatory daycare centre.

Sending children to daycare centres is an inevitable consequence of the rising costs of living in a developing country, where making ends meet is the order of the day for most parents.

When services of a maid became expensive, parents are left with no option but to look for daycare centres.

Daycare centres are ideal because not only are they conveniently located in housing areas but also offer a suite of value-added nursery services that extend from preschool lessons to full-time care, ideal for busy working parents.

Not all daycare centres are purpose-built. Most are converted double-storey terrace houses and corner-lots.

The standard of nursery services provided is normally found to be adequate, appropriate to the charges imposed.

In the beginning, no one gave serious thought to the possible risks associated with leaving their child in daycare centres because the centres are situated in close proximity to densely populated residential areas that can provide help in case of emergencies.

But the dreadful incident of child abuse at a neighbourhood daycare centre in Taman Melati early this month should serve as a serious reminder to concerned parents that they can never take the risk of leaving their children to daycare centres for granted.

There were other, worse incidents. In January, two babies died in a daycare centre in Kuala Lumpur when they were fed with spoilt milk.

In 2012, two female caretakers from a Johor centre uploaded a video onto YouTube that showed nine babies in a room, all tightly bound in cloth. One baby’s mouth was taped up.

The caretakers initially said they had done this to keep the babies quiet, but later claimed it was to defame the centre, after the operator fired them.

In both cases, the abused children were at unlicensed childcare centres.

According to Women, Family and Community Development minister Datuk Rohani Abdul Karim, unlicensed childcare centres can either be closed down, owners can be fined RM10,000 or jailed for up to two years.

“While unlicensed centres presents a clear red flag for most, some parents still send their children to these centres because they tend to charge lower prices,” explained Natasha Syed, a housewife who has been hunting for a proper childcare centre to allow her to return to employment.

She said licensed centres charges up to RM1,000 a month, compared to unlicensed centres that charge much less.

While it is obviously illegal to operate such centres without a license, more than two-thirds of the 3,200 centres in the country continue to remain unlicensed, according to the national Social Welfare Department (JKM).

JKM, which has been going on a registration drive for childcare centres,  hopes to increase the number of licensed daycare centres.

In a Borneo Post report dated March 6, the Sarawak's Welfare, Women and Family Development minister Datuk Fatimah Abdullah said incidents of children being abused at daycare centres should be a reminder for parents that it is crucial to evaluate and check if a childcare provider is licensed by the state Welfare Department.

Fatimah also pointed out that each childcare provider registered with the Welfare Department would receive a plaque containing references.

“The references should include approvals from the Fire Department, Health Department as well as other relevant authorities. The purpose of the plaque is to inform parents that the centre is legitimate and competent,” she said.

She pointed out that every childcare facility must go through strict procedures and check ups by authorised departments before registration.

“This involves meeting all the requirements to set up a childcare facility and the staff are required to attend childcare courses including the Permata course,” she explained.

Since 2012, all nurseries and pre-school employees are required to attend the Permata (Early Childhood Care and Education) course.

The course is designed to ensure that centres meet with every health and safety requirement, particularly since it deals with babies and toddlers.

However, this does not guarantee that problems won’t occur in licensed daycare centres.

But it should be a prerequisite for parents if they understand the risks involved when they transfer their children's care to other people for a certain number of hours daily.

If not, the costs of choosing the wrong daycare centre may be a decision that they will regret for the rest of their life.