By Caitlin Bewley
(3rd Yr Swinburne Uni)
A childcare centre in Bacchus Marsh is under investigation after a small child was left in one of their vans on a 39-degree day.
Staff at the centre, which the Moorabool News has chosen not to name, allegedly returned from a bus outing with the children – but left the five-year-old in the van on Thursday 30 January.
“The centre did not inform the families of an outing that day. To the mother’s knowledge the child was to be at the centre all day. There was no sign-in or sign-out of the centre by the staff to show they went out,” a family spokesperson told the Moorabool News.
When the mother had returned home after picking up her children from the centre, the little girl started panicking and crying when the car stopped, and everyone was getting out – it was then that she told her mum what had happened that day.
“She informed her mother that she was locked in the minibus by herself upon returning to the centre. All the other kids were taken inside by the daycare worker, but she was left in the bus alone on a 39-degree day.
“They had shut and locked the doors and she was still in the back seat of the van. Her child started yelling and crying to get out. No one came back,” the spokesperson said.
The child told her mother she started to feel ‘very sick and sleepy.’
It is alleged two relatives who have recently passed away, had previously shown the child to climb over the seats and to the driver’s front door and how to unlock the door to get out.
“The child has then run to the front gates of the centre, opened the gate but the front glass door has a code and the child did not know it. The child was crying, screaming and banging on the front door for someone to let her in. We are unaware of how long she was out the front of the centre alone on a busy road,” the spokesperson said.
A staff member did end up opening the door for the little girl.
Video footage of the incident has since been viewed by the Department and shows the child managed to escape after being shut in the van for approximately 75 seconds.
“The Department of Education and Training is undertaking an investigation into the incident,” a spokesperson for the Department told the Moorabool News.
“The Department has also required the service provider to immediately review their bus transport procedures and take immediate action to ensure the safety of children travelling on the bus.”
“She [the child] suffered from heat stroke, which was later confirmed by a doctor, and a migraine from being locked in the van on such a hot day,” the family spokesperson said.
The child’s mother alleges that her many calls to the centre that night were not returned.
She says that her child being locked in the van for a minute and a half on a 39-degree day is distressing because it only takes six minutes for a child to die in such conditions.
It is alleged the centre owners had apologised to the family.
The centre declined to comment on the incident with investigations ongoing with Victoria Police and the Department of Education and Training.
The website of the childcare centre states the centre is licensed for 98 places and they are committed to child safety.
“The Childcare currently undergoes a number of checks from many different regulatory bodies including Department of Education and Training, and the more recently formed Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority team (ACECQA), who ensure that we are operating within the rules and regulations that guide our industry,” the statement reads.