This article was originally published in the Edmonton Journal on July 14, 2010
By Keith Gerein, Edmonton Journal, with files from Trish Audette
Forced feedings, including one occasion when a child was made to eat their own vomit, physical discipline and long waits to use the bathroom are among the abuses children suffered at a Stony Plain daycare that has been ordered to close, provincial investigators say.
The Stony Day Care Centre must shut its doors by July 24, sending about 60 sets of parents scrambling to find new accommodations for their children.A spokesman for Alberta Children and Youth Services couldn't remember when the province last revoked the licence of a private daycare.
"It's hasn't happened in the last two years," Trevor Coulombe said. "The matter has to be pretty serious for us to take that step." He said Stony Plain RCMP have been made aware of the allegations, which came to light last month after an employee at the daycare complained to the ministry. Ministry investigators made three visits to the centre in late June, then filed a report on July 9 that "confirmed" a number of accusations of inappropriate staff behaviour toward children.
Among the mistreatment cited was unsuitable discipline, including biting, shaming and hitting by caregivers.Two kindergarten-aged children were "humiliated" for toileting accidents, and there were cases of children being made to eat more than they could handle, the investigators' report states."One child was force-fed until they had vomited, which was then mixed into the food and the child was forced to eat it," it said.
Investigators say they learned children were also forced to sit for long periods of time, including waiting up to 90 minutes to eat and 30 minutes to use the bathroom. In addition, a staff member was found to be smoking around the children. On June 15, two toddlers were left inside unattended while the rest of the group went outside for an activity, the report says.Allegations in the report would violate the daycare's licence agreement, which states staff must not "inflict or cause to be inflicted any form of physical punishment, verbal or physical degradation or emotional deprivation," the investigators say.
The daycare will remain open until July 24, in part to allow parents time to find alternate accommodations, Coulombe said. In the meantime, he said ministry staff are on-site daily to ensure children are being treated properly. The daycare's owner, who could not be reached for comment Tuesday, has appealed the government's order.
Coulombe said complaints related to the daycare's feeding practices were raised on two previous occasions, in February 2008 and August 2009. In both cases, the ministry worked with the centre's staff and the situation improved, he said.However, the latest allegations were more serious. Given the past issues, investigators worried that inappropriate care might reoccur, he said.Government staff plan to hold a meeting Thursday in Stony Plain to help parents find alternate places to take their children.
Currently, there is only one other daycare in Stony Plain. Jagg Chana, who owns the Loving to Learn Children's Centre, said he has received at least 20 phone calls from worried parents, most of whom he had to turn away.Chana is working to find a short-term solution to help parents.Some parents, however, are continuing to take their children to Stony Day Care Centre, saying they don't believe the investigators' findings. "I think most of the allegations are pretty much bogus," Sherry Lynn Carey told Global News on Tuesday. Parent Steve Henderson said his wife and her family use the daycare. "We've had no problems. It's been golden. Everything has been great here.
"NDP critic Rachel Notley linked the case to what she believes is a severe shortage of childcare spaces in Alberta.Such a shortage means the government is more likely to keep open a facility even if it knows there may be problems, she said.The amount of money that the provincial government puts into childcare is low compared with most other provinces in Canada, said Bill Moore-Kilgannon, the executive director of Public Interest Alberta.
Moore-Kilgannon said low funding means wages for daycare workers are low, there is a high rate of turnover, and sometimes people hired are not adequately trained."I guess what we're appealing for is a much more quality system that isn't rooted in a market approach, but that is built to make sure that all children are getting the education and care they need."