|Child Care Incidents
What procedures to follow if you have a concern or complaint
A recent investigation by the Sydney Morning Herald revealed more than 1000 children needed medical treatment and dozens were taken to hospital after serious accidents at childcare centres in NSW alone last year.
The Herald investigation obtained 4,000 pages of previously unpublished reports that show that many of the accidents were not witnessed by staff, raising serious questions about supervision.
Despite the number of incidences (and these were the ones reported), only four centres were prosecuted last year, all for serious safety breaches, including a toddler who drowned and another who was locked in after closing time. Four other services are before the courts.
While putting your child into the care of another organization is stressful enough, imagine what it's like when your child is verbally or physically abused and even injured in that care. Melinda Ayre, this month's mum in profile found herself in that position and was scared off child care for over a year. Complaints are not only to do with physical injury. Many parents face situations where they believe their children have been neglected, mentally or verbally abused.
In Melinda's case, she had to deal with all three.
"It was very stressful and upsetting at the time and I felt very guilty and frightened. DoCS were excellent and were very concerned. I had to do a complete timeline in writing and they went in unannounced and did an assessment.
While at the time of the incident DoCS were supportive, there is little follow up after the paperwork is completed.
"They don't tell you what happened in the end", says Ayre. "I guess I could contact them and find out the result, as I've been wanting to do, but the fact is the place is still running".
In order to get the best outcome and insure that a child care facility is taken to task over a potential incident, the most important thing is to file a complaint immediately.
In Australia child care centres are required to develop and follow grievance and/or complaints handling procedures, however, many parents are unaware of this and are unsure about the most effective way of dealing with their concerns.
Make a point of asking your centre about its complaints handling procedures before you enrol your child. Where possible you should follow the established procedures when you have a concern.
The issues parents have in relation to their centre can usually be divided into two categories. The first group of concerns are personal and relate to individual worries about the care given to a particular child, or differences in belief about the best ways to care for a child.
Some common examples of these kinds of complaints are carers letting children get dirty during the day or not giving children enough to eat. These concerns are best dealt with through direct communication with your care provider or the director of the centre your child attends and can often be dealt with through a simple chat when the matter first comes to hand.
The second category of issues regularly identified by parents are to do with child care centres which break the rules and regulations governing how they are supposed to operate.
Some examples of rule violations are child care centres which care for more children than they are licensed for, the use of inappropriate discipline and leaving children unattended.
The National Childcare Accreditation Council is the Australian Government agency responsible for ensuring that child care centres, family day care services and out of school hour services stick to the established rules and provide high levels of service surrounding these kinds of issues.
If you have spoken to your service about your concerns and feel they are not being adequately addressed, or if you feel that the service is not following its complaints or grievance procedure appropriately, you can contact the NCAC for advice and information about how to resolve your issues.
For more tips and help on how to manage issues with your child care service click here
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