'Infant care centre hurt my baby and forgot about it'

'Infant care centre hurt my baby and forgot about it'

SINGAPORE - She trusted the infant care centre to take care of her baby, then 4½ months old, while she was in school and her husband was at work.

But the trust gave way to panic and shock last November when she heard, just hours before an exam, that her daughter had been scalded during bath time.

"A million thoughts rushed through my mind," said the postgraduate student, who wanted to be known only as Mrs Tan.

"My husband said he would go down to the hospital first, and told me I should complete my paper first," the 37-year old added.

At KK Women's and Children's Hospital, the couple was told that their baby had suffered first-degree burns.

Three days later, the couple tried to find out what happened, only to be told by the teacher-in-charge present during the incident that "she did not remember".

But four days later, the owner of the infant care centre followed up with a phone call, this time with an explanation: it was an accident.

"The owner told my husband that... our baby had kicked the tap, turning on the hot water, and stuck her leg under the running hot water, resulting in the first-degree burns," Mrs Tan told The New Paper.

"It's very dodgy," she said, commenting on the difference in the answers she was given within four days.

Till today, she does not believe it was "just an accident".

The recent alleged abuse at My First Skool this month was a painful reminder of what she went through last year.

Comparing her case to the My First Skool case, Mrs Tan said: "The only difference is that in my case, there was no CCTV. Without CCTV, you really cannot tell whether it was an accident. (The people at the infant care centre) will always tell you it's an accident."

This led Mrs Tan to question the transparency of the childcare centres.

She tried to find out if it was a protocol for parents to be informed in case of abuse or mistreatment, but was told that this would be left to the childcare operators themselves.

"There is no incentive for them to come clean. It leads to compensation and other problems, so it's much easier for them to sweep everything under the carpet. There is no way for a parent to find out something has gone wrong unless they find out from other sources," Mrs Tan said.

Calling these abuses "symptomatic", Mrs Tan said that simply dismissing the teacher involved will not solve the problem.

"It's so easy to just fire that teacher. It's so easy to blame the teacher when it might not be really just her fault. This is instead a sign that this system is not working well enough."

Harsh

Using the hygiene grading system hawkers have as an example, Mrs Tan said: "If they can be so harsh with hawkers, why are they so lenient with childcare centres?"

Mrs Tan is no longer angry, but she is disappointed with the childcare management system.

She acknowledged though, that there are good facilities around. Her baby has since been enrolled in another infant care centre she is satisfied with.

This further convinced Mrs Tan that the problem lies with the management.

fjieying@sph.com.sg


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