The doors to the Little Treasures Day Care and Preschool were temporarily closed Monday but are due to re-open Tuesday, as the Child Care Board (CCB) launches formal investigations into worrying allegations of mistreatment of children at the local day care facility.
Following a meeting with operators of the nursery, CCB Director Joan Crawford also assured that her department was seriously looking into the matter.
“We did get some reports and our officers went to the centre on Friday. We had a meeting this morning with the operators of the centre and we are addressing the matter,” Crawford said following the dismissal of ten ‘aunties’ en masse on Friday after they staged a sick out last Tuesday over alleged bad treatment and working conditions.
Over the weekend, several parents also vented their frustration on the school’s Facebook page as well as Reid’s personal Facebook page, both of which were temporarily deactivated on Saturday and then later re-activated in light of a Barbados TODAY report in which one of the ten dismissed workers –– who said she had been with the nursery for 13 years –– alleged that children were being made to sleep on the floor and on tabletops, and were being underfed.
The ‘aunty’ who did not want to be identified, also claimed that bleach water was used to bathe children on a number of occasions and that expletives were sometimes hurled within earshot of the little ones.
One upset parent had also told Barbados TODAY she received an urgent call from an upset ‘aunty’ last Friday advising her to collect her daughter immediately. She also said she had since been bombarded with negative reports about the establishment.
“My daughter attended Little Treasures for over two years and now two years later I’m seeing pictures and videos of ill-treatment to those poor babies and not to mention to my own child,” the irate parent said, while alleging that her daughter had been placed in a cupboard for unknown reasons.
“To my understanding it’s worse than I know it to be,” the mother said, while accusing the owner of disrespecting her staff, and calling on parents to take action in the interest of their children.
Barbados TODAY has tried unsuccessfully to contact the head of the school Janice Reid for comment on the troubling allegations.
However, in a statement posted on Sunday, the nursery described them as both “malicious and defamatory” and warned that it had sought legal counsel on the matter. “The truth is the ultimate defence, and the extreme seriousness of the allegations in the public domain now means that we have had to retain legal counsel concerning these malicious and defamatory statements,” Little Treasures management said while suggesting that the ‘aunties’ would have to be at fault for any alleged ill-treatment.
“Little Treasures adheres to a strict ratio of staff to children in each age group.
“It is impossible for an auntie not to know where each and every child in Little Treasures is at any given time. If any of the allegations were true, none of the alleged incidents could have taken place without the facilitation/participation and/or full knowledge of aunties,” the statement added.
As the story went viral on social media this past weekend, several pictures and unsavoury reports surfaced about Little Treasures Preschool, with many angry parents calling for its immediate closure.
However, questions were also asked about why the ‘aunties’ had not spoken up earlier in defence of their wards.
But in defence of the ‘aunties’, one former employee, who was not part of the group dismissed last Friday, has come forward to say what she experienced during her brief tenure at the nursery.
In defence of her former colleagues, she told Barbados TODAY the ‘aunties’ did not stand idly by, amid what they deemed to be mistreatment of the children.
“We took pictures and videos and we used to tell parents what was going on without her [the owner’s] knowing because she didn’t want us to talk to the parents,” the former ‘auntie’ said.
She told Barbados TODAY that they had called the Child Care Board on several occasions to make reports.
“We were calling the Child Care Board while I was there and when I left the nursery I called the Board about three or four times and they said that the matter would be dealt with and nothing happened,” she complained.
The former employee also claimed she was underpaid and that a dispute had developed with her former employer over her NIS payments. However, she said her breaking point came over a situation in which a preschooler was made to sleep on the floor after the girl refused to put on a pamper in keeping with her father’s instructions.
“These things are ridiculous. You are making reports and nothing is done. Children are [not] to be playing with,” she said while joining with upset parents who want to see the nursery closed and reopened under new management.
The nursery, which caters to over 60 children, has been in operation for 14 years. However, this is not the first time it has come under public scrutiny. Last year, the authorities stepped in after images of children sleeping in the patio were released.