Returning to work after maternity and paternity leave can be a real dilemma for new parents and finding the childcare Centre that ticks all the boxes can be a challenge. Knowing that your children are in a safe, secure and nurturing environment are top of the list for most parents, but what else should parents be looking for.
Caroline Surtees, director and owner of the Olive Grove Centre of Early Learning, has a true passion for childcare and firmly believes that every child has the right to be loved and to feel that they belong.
Orphaned at age 6, Mrs. Surtees knows the critical importance that the environment has on children.
“I’ve worked in many child care Centre’s over the last 9 years and some of what I have seen has broken my heart. My own child at 11 months of age was left to cry for two hours (self-settling on the first day for childcare orientation) without any comforting or acknowledgement. At the same time, I was in the next room as a Kindy Room leader. I questioned if the child crying was mine and I they told me, “No”! As a mother and an educator, this is heartbreaking and parents need to know that this is unacceptable”, Mrs. Surtees goes on to say.
“Too many childcare Centres are being treated like real estate. The children are the property and some Centres are operating purely for the business sense and not for the rights and needs of the child”, says Mrs. Surtees. “As a parent of two and the owner of a child care Centre, this worries me and concerns me greatly”.
Three incidents in 2017 have made headlines in WA involving three different childcare Centres. One involved a 4 year old who was left on a bus, still in the booster seat. The second was a child scalded by a hot cup of tea and, thirdly, a child who nearly strangled to death in a hammock.
“This shocks me,” says Mrs. Surtees, “this is something that can be avoided with effective communication, supervision and competency in skills. Yes, accidents happen but we are dealing with young human beings here!”
Mrs. Surtees says that parents have choices but they also need to know what to look for in a potential childcare Centre to ensure that their child will receive the best possible love, care, nurturing and security. Mrs. Surtees lists the following Top Five Tips in choosing a Centre:
- Spend some time at the Centre. Look at the children who are there; how do they react and how are they emotionally? What does their body language say? Are they happy to be there?
- Look at how the staff interacts with the children. Is there love? Is there happiness and a sense of belonging? Are the staff themselves happy, calm and displaying interest in the children?
- Check that the Centre meets the current standardized regulations.
- Where possible, talk to some of the other parents and ask for feedback on the Centre. Ask questions.
- Check for flexibility in terms of routine and sleeping. For example, are all children of age forced to “rest” and sleep at a certain time each day whether it suits them or not?
“Importantly, listen to what your gut instinct tells you. Ask yourself, is this somewhere I am willing to leave my child for hours each week?” says Mrs. Surtees.
“Childcare Centre’s should be places of love, nurturing, exploration and fun. It’s up to the parents to do some research and spend some time in new prospective Centres”.