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Accidents, Escapes Plague Early Childhood Centres

Accidents, Escapes Plague Early Childhood Centres

February 26, 2013

Palmerston North, NZ – As the government Select Committee draws up its report on the Social Security (Benefit Categories and Work Focus) Amendment Bill, the Home Education Foundation (HEF) of New Zealand is calling on members of the committee and the public to consider the dangers of early childhood education (ECE).

“The Social Security Bill makes ECE compulsory for the children of beneficiaries,” says Mrs Smith. “But not only is ECE attendance linked with worrying social and even academic disadvantage, it may actually pose a threat to your child’s safety.”

The New Zealand Herald recently reported the story of Jaden Young, a toddler who fell and fractured his skull on his first day at childcare. The incident went unreported by the boy’s carer and it was not until 24 hours later that his parents noticed the swelling on his head and sought medical help. Now, Jaden’s parents are waiting to see if the blow will cause permanent harm to their “miracle baby”.

Jaden’s father Curtis told the Herald, “We watched Jaden every moment, of every day for his first year, making sure he was safe at all times. Yet the first day we left him under someone else's supervision, he was gravely injured."

The Young family will face financial difficulty keeping Jaden at home, but are understandably reluctant to let him out of their sight. “Ironically, if this family falls in need of government assistance, under the new Bill the Ministry for Social Development’s response will be to pack Jaden off to another daycare,” says Mrs Smith. “And this is what Paula Bennett calls ‘putting the right kind of care around families.’”

According to the ACC, the number of children below the age of 4 years injured in accidents at ECE centres has been climbing every year, from 1035 accident claims in 2010 to 1328 in 2012. Even more worrying, the Herald quoted one ECE teacher as saying that injuries were “chronically under-reported.”

But it’s not just accidents that plague ECE centres. Stuff.co.nz recently reported “Boy, 4, latest child left to roam.” Mrs Smith says, “From a 9-month-old baby left crying alone in a Porirua ECE after closing hours, to the 4-year-old special needs child who escaped from Mungavin Kindergarten and was found wandering the streets by a fireman, there are a worrying number of cases where children are neglected or simply lost by their carers.”

Mrs Smith says that this need not reflect badly on individual carers, but highlights the inherent flaws of the system.

“With so many little children to look after, it’s no wonder if some are neglected even by the most trustworthy carers,” she said. “But no carer in the world can be as loving and perceptive as a mother.

“Only a mother can give the love, care, and attention that every child needs. At best, even the most trustworthy carer is a hired stranger.”

At worst, says Mrs Smith, carers themselves might pose a danger to children. “The HEF heard from one mother who was sexually abused in state care as a child,” she said. “In her submission, this woman shared that facing the alternatives presented by the Bill—leaving her children to the care of strangers, or facing ‘benefit sanctions’—made her physically ill.”

Concerned New Zealanders should write, call, and visit their local MPs and the Select Committee, Mrs Smith urges.

Tell your friends. Make appointments to see the Committee members or your local MP.

“All parents have the right to choose a safe, loving environment for their children. Let’s not lose that right.”

The Select Committee members are Jacinda Ardern, Simon Bridges, Melissa Lee, Jan Logie, Asenati Lole-Taylor, Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga, Tim Macindoe, Alfred Ngaro, Rajen Prasad, Mike Sabin and Su’a William Sio. Letters to individual MPs should be sent to this address (no stamp necessary):

Parliament Office
Private Bag 18888
Parliament Buildings
Wellington 6160


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