When our kids are not safe with their carers

Screengrab from a video showing a teacher at a Carltonville creche repeatedly slapping a small child, 3 April 2019.

Screengrab from a video showing a teacher at a Carltonville creche repeatedly slapping a small child, 3 April 2019.

How can a parent KNOW their child is safe with the people we employ to care for them when we are not there to do it ourselves?

The Citizen recently ran a story about a ‘teacher’ (I sincerely struggle to call her this, in fact, it leaves a taste like battery acid in my mouth) at a creche in Carltonville, Gauteng, who had been captured on video towering over a child of no more than four years old being made to clean up her own vomit. Let me say that again; A sick toddler made to clean up her own vomit.

But this woman doesn’t stop there, she feels so offended by the vomit and so aggrieved by the insolence of the child to carelessly vomit, the creche worker ruthlessly beats the child over the head whilst the little one is trying bravely to clean her vomit off of the brightly coloured toddler-sized plastic table and chair.

I could not bring myself to finish watching the video as quite frankly I had seen more than enough 54 seconds into the almost 2-minute long assault. This video was released on social media and immediately went viral, fueled by the outrage and horror of South Africans. It turns out the incident the video depicts did not take place that recently, and the woman was actually arrested a week ago, so at least she has been identified, charged, removed from the school and will hopefully no longer be able to work as a ‘teacher’.

But this incident, while horrific, is not isolated. Over the years, several videos have surfaced of childcare professionals abusing the children they are employed to care for. This latest incident really disturbed me, like a worm in my brain and heart that keeps writhing around my consciousness.

As a working mom, my daughter is in the care of others A LOT, she is at pre-school three mornings a week and the rest of the time she is with her nanny. And while, I believe she is being cared for by people who are kind, gentle, patient, passionate and actually enjoy being surrounded by children, instead of irritated. This is what troubles me, this is what I believe to be true, but how can I KNOW for sure this is the case?

I am fairly sure the parents of children in these videos, believed their child was in a loving and professional environment, and look where this belief got them…

So, how can a parent KNOW their child is safe with the people we employ to care for them when we are not there to do it ourselves?

I wish I had the answer, but sadly I don’t.

When thinking about what I could help me feel more in control and aware of my child’s safety while in the care of others, do to, I realised the most important thing, is communication and engagement;

Spontaneous updates and communication. If the person or place caring for my child is not engaging me regularly, with pictures, stories, newsletters, meetings, events, then I may be right to be suspicious. Why are they not willing to share or talk to me?

Create relationships. Don’t just operate in isolation of other parents, connect and chat, compare notes. There is safety in numbers, chances are if there is a problem and I haven’t picked up on it, yet, someone else in the group may have and can alert the rest to it.

Talk to my kid. Watch her body. Ask her how their day was? What did she do? What did the teacher/nanny do with her? And listen carefully and consciously, does anything my child is saying trouble me? Watch her body language when talking about the carer, does she show any signs of distress in her body? Or even worse does her body show any signs of abuse?

Trust my kid. Listen to my kid carefully, often we overlook a child’s judgements as childish – but if my child is hysterical at the mere thought of going to school, or me leaving them alone with a nanny, I might want to consider carefully if this is just a childish outburst or a sign of something much deeper. Kids have good instincts and, even if she is not able to fully articulate them, I need to respect her feelings and evaluate the origin of these feelings.

Trust my gut. As a modern parent, I often feel very removed from my biological programming, but it is there just under the surface, so I need to tune in. If my gut is telling me something is not right, then chances are good it’s true at some level, so if I am unsure or uncomfortable, I must trust my instincts, and try to find out more. Even if I choose to make a change, without any proof of a problem, at least I can fall back on the good old saying, “rather safe than sorry”.

As I said I have no answers, I just know that people are not always what they seem, especially when they stand to earn a buck or two, so I need to be super aware of the individuals I entrust my child to, during the day while I work, and how they interact with me and my child. But even more importantly how my child interacts back and the feeling my body and my child’s body gets during those interactions.

Outside of that, I am at a loss as to how to KNOW for sure the people I trust with my child are trustworthy.

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