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Parents cry negligence at daycare
Abrasions on the right arm of eight-month-old Gabriel Brereton seemingly forming the word "shh", along with multiple scratches on his face—some just an inch away from his eye, all sustained at the daycare he attended, sent his parents Brian and Rachael scampering for help from every authority they could find hoping for some redress.
The Sunday Guardian first learned about the incident after seeing images of baby Gabriel circulating on Facebook accompanied by the caption: “People beware what daycare you put your children in. There's a daycare in Arima (I won't mention, but you can message me and I will tell you their name and address), which has damaged my eight-month-old son severely! I am currently looking for some legal advice on what can be done about this situation.”
Brereton, who was subsequently interviewed by the Sunday Guardian, revealed it was not the first time his only child who began attending the daycare in January 2018 had been disturbingly blemished.
In March he received a phone call from the daycare owner telling him something had happened that never occurred at the daycare before.
"She told me my son had sustained scratches on his face from her grandson who is a toddler and kept emphasising such had never happened before. She apologised and assured me it would not happen again," explains Brereton.
Baby Gabriel was also moved from the crib he occupied to a playpen where 'hands could not reach him', the parents were assured.
The Sunday Guardian understands the childcare facility, where a relative of baby Gabriel was formerly employed, consists of three departments—the baby, toddler, and pre-school sections. The baby and toddler departments have one attendant each. One of the baby's relatives posted on social media that the daycare was severely understaffed. But the owner who spoke briefly with us dismissed the claims, saying it was misleading and now negative things were being said about the business.
Scratches on baby's face, arm
Things got really serious when two months and 11 days after the first incident, Brereton received yet another phone call from the daycare owner telling him that his son had got another scratch. This time she described it as 'a light scratch on his face,' and even offered to send Brereton a photograph of his son. He would later learn the scratches shown in the images were nothing like what his wife discovered.
“My wife called me furious, arguing about why I did not contact her about what happened. I told her that it was a very light scratch from the photograph I had seen, so I did not make much of it,” says Brereton.
Confused by what his wife was saying, Brereton asked her to take some photos and send it to him. This is when he saw the true extent of his son's injuries.
“I was shocked because the scratches were absolutely nothing like what was captured in the photo and sent to me by the owner.”
The Breretons, who reside in Brazil Village, went to the Arima Police Station to make a report. An officer there told them that a medical was needed first before lodging the report. They complied and a doctor at the Arima Health Facility examined baby Gabriel.
"The doctor wrote a report and all I can remember her saying is that the abrasions were too many to count."
Brereton claimed he was told that the Child Protection Unit (CPU), within the TTPS, deals primarily with criminal offences involving children 12 years and over and baby Gabriel was not in that category.
Retracing his steps on that day, the 36-year-old lighting technician claimed he contacted the CPU for advice after receiving the phone call from the daycare owner and he was told to "keep the peace and remove the child from the daycare immediately."
Not satisfied, he visited the CA on Wrightson Road, Port-of-Spain, on June 20 but was equally disappointed. He said he was astounded by the very unhelpful manner coming from an officer at the CA.
"The person I spoke to began taking the information but then advised that there was nothing legally that could have been done, referring to some policy that was before Parliament." (See No regulations for establishing nursery and childcare centre)
Brereton said the official took the name of the daycare but refused to take the number or to view the photos of his son's injuries. He said when he told the officer the injuries were imposed by the grandchild of the owner, as was told to him, she presumed it to be a possible case of jealousy and that was the end of the conversation.
However, when contacted, the CA told the Sunday Guardian, the information coming from Brereton would have to be verified and investigations initiated based on the findings.
Daycare owner speaks
When the Sunday Guardian contacted the owner of the Arima-based daycare to arrange a visit, we were told we could not come because she was nursing a bad back.
The owner who seemed co-operative at first, abruptly hung up the phone half way through the interview and refused to answer several calls placed to her line.
In her brief conversation, she claimed it was her workers who looked after the babies and toddlers.
“Presently, I have two attendants in that area. I have five babies in the baby section and ten toddlers in the toddler section,” she said.
She confirmed the attendant was not in the baby section at the time of the incident as she was on a washroom break.
When the Sunday Guardian asked if this was a regular practice and why wasn't someone designated to take care of the babies in the absence of the attendant, she agreed someone should have been watching them.
In the same breath though, she seemed to be defending the action saying, "You see, you have to be in the business to understand the business and how it runs."
No regulations for establishing nursery and childcare centre
In 2016 Minister of Gender and Child Development Ayanna Webster-Roy had told the T&T Guardian her ministry was in the process of developing a policy to guide nursery operations and to regulate childminders in T&T. She had said back then that (and which is still the case today), that there were no legal guidelines or regulations for establishing a nursery and childcare centre in T&T. She said the policy expected to be implemented by the Children's Authority will require the licencing of all nurseries in the country. The minister had spoken following the death of baby Kristiano Aziz who was unresponsive when his mother picked him up at a daycare in Barrackpore. An autopsy done subsequently revealed the child had died of positional asphyxia.
Committee set up to draft regulations
Fast-forward to 2018, from her office on Friday evening, the Sunday Guardian was told regulations for the Nurseries Act—a component of The Children's Community Residences, Foster Care and Nurseries Act, No 65 of 2000, was yet to be finalised.
It was noted a committee was set up to draft the regulations, which is now before the chief parliamentary council for finalisation, after which it would go to the Parliament.
Asked if there was a projected time to reach finalisation, we were told the document was in a 'cue' state as finalisations on regulations pertaining to rehab and children's homes last week in the Parliament took precedence.
How the CPU and CA operates
In a response to the Sunday Guardian, CA's senior associate communications officer Shemelle Paradice explained that under the CA's Act and the Children's Community Residences, Foster Care and Nurseries Act, the Authority has been mandated to licence and monitor community residences and nurseries however, the provisions which empower the Authority to licence and monitor nurseries are not yet in force.
She said it should be noted that under the legislation, nursery/daycare includes and means any premises used for the care of children under the age of six, for material reward and for periods which exceed one hour. However, the ordinary arrangements for the care of children within a family shall not be included.
As a result, she emphasises the legislation therefore does not seek to regulate informal day care arrangements between family and community members.
Paradice said although the Authority was not yet empowered by law to regulate nurseries, if it receives a report of the ill-treatment of a child at any nursery or daycare, it will conduct an investigation into the matter and determine what intervention may be appropriate, which may also involve a referral to the Child Protection Unit which will pursue criminal investigations into the matter.
The CPU is the arm of the Police Service which was formed in 2015 to specifically address child protection issues. CPU officers are attached to each police division throughout T&T. It works with the CA to carry out the following successfully:
*Sharing information on children who are in situations where they require protection.
*Removal of children from dangerous situations.
*Implementation of a court order, which has been obtained concerning a child in a situation where public peace has to be preserved.
*Visiting children and families who live in 'high risk' areas.
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