Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Treatment

Treatment
by Kristen Gottlieb blogspot: http://poetswoods.blogspot.com
How we treat each other in this world means everything. And when we put our trust into others to take care of our children, it means here is a part of me- the most precious part- here is my child who I need daycare for. As a concerned parent, I write this for all the children being neglected or mistreated in daycares. I write to the parents of other children who are at the daycare and don’t know what is really happening. I trusted that our daycare understood that taking care of children was like taking care of someone's heart, and I assumed they would do it with gentleness and kindness and maybe even out of love for children.
There were times when I wondered how it could be that my child did not want to go to their center and would cry and complain and I thought my child was just a homebody and didn't like it anywhere but home. I thought my three-year old was exaggerating as sometimes children do. And when my child doesn't smile when I drop them off and hangs onto my leg extra long I wondered why but never imagined anything was wrong. Is my child the only one who did not want to be here?
I trusted them for several years and whenever I had a little doubt about how my child was being treated, I would make a lighthearted remark in hopes of hearing more about it but their response was mostly, everything is fine. So everytime I picked up my child and asked how they did that day, they always would say "they were perfect- they were great" but I thought that was unrealistic given that some days are harder than others so I kept expecting one day they would tell me something that happened...but whenever I asked, nothing ever happened.
Over the summer months a note was sent home to parents asking us to apply sunscreen and pack a water bottle when dropping them off at daycare. I was somewhat relieved to see the note because I always wondered in my heart why my child was always so thirsty when I picked them up from there. I always wondered why they needed food and drink instantly and drinking a lot in the car and then complaining when the container was finally empty. But my child was still thirsty even when I started packing a bottle. That can't be I would say to myself because I send them with a full bottle of water bottle every morning. But then one day I "popped" in for one reason or another and noticed the water bottle was still full and placed high on a shelf where little hands could not reach. Why are they up so high I wondered? And when I said it aloud my child said "she said No! " No- that could never be true...no one would ever really deny a child water..right?
Finally, I mentioned to the daycare provider that my child was always thirsty whenever I picked them up and the daycare provider smiled and pointed to the water dispenser in the room..."they can get water whenever they want" she said laughing...so I told myself there was no way that what I was doubting could be true because there was water right there. The provider always knew how to smooth over my worries and concerns and has the ability to do this well.
The daycare providers rates were very reasonable (for the first two years) compared with other daycares I had sought out, so I was not surprised at first when I noticed that the ratios for adults to children were way off. In the backyard, there are a couple of large areas that are completely fenced-in with great playsets for the kids so I often let it go that there was only one person watching all 20-30 kids in a fenced space. Once, I even saw the providers mother (who has Alzheimers and stays with her) watching about 20 kids in a outside fenced area all by herself. It was rare and only certain times of the day that there was more than one staff person in the room with all the children. There are a few times I can recall when the staff/child ratio numbers are correct too, but often times between shifts or when everyone is busy on other tasks, there is only one person to cover for hours. This happens very frequently in one of the older infant/toddler rooms where the same young woman is in charge. She seems to prefer working the toddler room by herself so things can go her way but sometimes there is someone else watching the kids with her and usually that person is a high-school staff member. When I first noticed how young some of the staff were, I thought the young energy was good for the kids and that they would be very attentive-- and some are- but I have noticed over the years their impatience with changing diapers and cleaning up messes (which is often done with a Yuck or a Eww) and it appears it is their inexperience with kids that they act that way.
The staff person who runs the older infant/toddler room is around 22 yrs old and often appears noticeably overwhelmed and irritated by all the chaos as she tries to watch so many children without help. It has become obvious that she has the shortest temper as she slams cabinets, complains constantly (something I have witnessed after popping in, and frowns at the kids putting them in time out and yelling at them when they start interacting in a way she doesnt like. Recently, her demeanor seems to be worsening and some days things didn't feel right in the room, but I thought that since there were security cameras in the room that all actions must be being recorded so she would never do anything inappropriate I thought at the time (but later I learned that these cameras do not record and are live and only useful for staff members so they can see outside the grounds to be prepared for when someone- like parents- are coming!) Because of her mood swings, most days the children are either afraid or are acting the opposite and pushing and purposely pulling at one another and being told by her to "STOP! Thats it! You are in time out!." It seemed lately that even just playing was now deserving of a time out.
Once when I dropped my child off, I asked why it was soo hot in the room and she said they don't turn on the air conditioning until all the parents leave because the door is wide open and it wastes the cold air....and I believed her thinking that sounded reasonable. What I learned later from a former employee was that she didn't want to work hard at being with the kids alone and the hotter it was the better it was for her because they wouldn't be as active. The worst part is that the woman who owns the daycare stands up for her and thinks she's great with the kids.
And what is happening behind closed doors and when the doors are open and when no one's parents are looking? What I learned from a former employee was astonishing. They had worked with the 22 yr old staff woman many times and told them that she hates changing diapers and cleaning up after the children and often waits for some other staff person to come in and tells them to do it. When I heard how she hates changing them, I knew the children were being neglected...sitting in a wet diaper or a poopy diaper for hours until she had to do something about it. Former employees also witnessed her turning up the heat and closing the windows even on hot days to make the children grow tired faster and that she only allows a dixie cup of water at lunchtime because she wants to change as few diapers as possible. The more water, the more wet diapers. Then I learned how this same staff member often smokes marijuana in the back of the building with another staff member before going into work.. Other employees have noticed the marijuana smell on their clothes after smoking but are too afraid to say anything. Going high to work with children. CHILDREN. Its frightening and she doesn't seem to see how horrific her effect is on children and how she is damaging their confidence and sense of self. This former employee also explained that the provider told the staff that they were not allowed to talk about certain things with parents- for one thing the staff were told not to talk about time outs to parents and not to talk about their child being naughty- or else they might be fired..The reason, the daycare provider gave them, was that it created too much conflict between the parents and the center.
In early August 2009, after the center was visited by the State, the daycare providers rates suddenly doubled and said they would be getting rid of some of their kids and that all of their after-school kids because they had too many children in the center. Not surprisingly, I later was told that the center was only licensed for 34 but actually had over 60 kids on a regular daily basis. I was surprised to see she kept some of her part timer children on after the State visit, and it seemed that she was only concerned about dollar signs. After the new increased daycare rates became effective, I assumed there would be more staff hired and more trained adults. I also thought they might start participating in the State Food program so that the kids would get balanced meals, but nothing changed. The lack of nutrition has always bothered me deeply in that the years I have been there I have only seen tater totts and French fries, saltine crackers, cheese puffs and microwaved waffles at mealtimes. The provider often jokes that she wings it at mealtime.
And all my doubts over the years over the things I would see were now confirmed: children with mucus coming out of their nose and no one to wipe it for them, children with lunch all over their face at the end of the day, children struggling to sit on a big potty with no one to help them, children in saggy soiled pants and diapers, there were alwasys same few mostly broken toys in the room. the room so full and crowded with so many little ones and often only one staff person in charge. Once I noticed a baby in the back corner of the room sitting sideways in a high chair alone- the provider publicly referred to this high chait as the "drunk high chair"- Oh thats the joke around here- its the drunk high chair. And the things that went on at home: that my children were no longer interested in vegetables or milk, they were suddenly afraid to use the potty and going poopy was now "eww gross!" and "yuck", they had stopped singing as much in the house and in the car,
The last day I walked into the place was the day before I learned what was going on- and the last time my children ever went to that daycare again. I walked in and every child was sitting up against the walls in the room. "What's going on? Are they all in timeout?" I asked jokingly.. "They weren't listening" she said with a chuckle but I saw her eyes glaring and the smile was then gone from my face. Is she serious? She isn't serious- no one would EVER do that to a child...right?
Imagine being a little child in a room under her care where whenever you start to play you are yelled at and when you ask for a drink of water- you are denied. Where everything depends on her mood that day- her attitude.
These are Children. Babies. Toddlers.
And it shocks me that anyone could become a daycare provider who is only in it for the money and/or is emotionally unstable and who has staff members who smoke weed before handling children and babies. It shocks me that they use their cameras only to show who is coming (parents etc). That's how this place gets away with so much...they see the parents cars coming as they turn into the lot and quickly make things look normal again. The children are suddenly taken out of time out just in time as their parent opens the door...
The other night I was talking to my child who said "Mama sometimes she was really naughty." "How honey, what did she do?" "She put kids in time out all day long." At this I started to cry. "All day?" I said, "Yes Mama" and I cried and held him apologizing for all the time he had spent there. I cried for all those children who were in timeout all day and whose diapers were then only changed because their parents were in the driveway.

Little ones do not have a voice . We as responsible parents need to be the ones who are asking questions and personally in touch with the daycare workers and develop relationships with them so that we can uncover the truth. We need to be their voice.  As my son said after I apologized to him for having him in that daycare for so long: “I proud of you Mama.” Let’s make our children proud by listening to them closely and being their voice.

1 comments:

Alexa said...

OMG how horrible :(
This place is closed now right?? Those people should be barred from ever working with kids again!

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