The most talked about story this past week has been that of a local day care facility for children, whose operations have been called into serious question – and not for the first time.
Last year, Little Treasures Day Care and Preschool came in for public scrutiny after images of children sleeping in the patio were released.
And over the weekend more damning images surfaced, along with new and an even more scurrilous set of allegations, following what was undoubtedly a very traumatic week for all concerned.
Reports are that at least ten ‘aunties’ staged protest action last week Tuesday in a show of disgust over the treatment both they and their wards were receiving from Little Treasures’ management. This led to their unceremonious sacking last Friday, which set off a whole chain of other reactions.
Barbados TODAY first reported on the developments last Sunday and immediately the story went viral as parents and guardians, as well as former employees, weighed in on the Little Treasures affair.
One of the most damaging accounts came from one of the ten dismissed workers, who said she had been with the nursery for 13 years. She 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 angry parent had also told Barbados TODAY that she received an urgent call from an upset ‘aunty’ last Friday advising her to collect her daughter immediately. She also said that she has 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 sharing a photo of an infant, who she identified as daughter, being placed in a cupboard for unknown reasons.
As the weekend grew old, the story gathered more and more wings, as parents and former staff members generously dished on the establishment and its owner Janice Reid.
However, not everyone was bashing Little Treasures.
“I know the owner and what I will say is that this is all rather strange, some of the accusations are out of character where Mrs Reid is concerned,” said one reader in the owner’s defence.
“I have friends whose children attended there over the years and they never had any issues. The standards were so high that people came from all over just to enroll their children there. My question is why are people waiting until ALL this time to complain? However, I am confident that the truth, whatever it is, WILL surface, “ he added.
Another reader said her granddaughter attended Little Treasures, so “we are shocked to hear this as we were very satisfied with the care, she received no complaints whatsoever”.
Still the complaints continued to come. And at one point it all seemed to be too much for the Little Treasures management to bear. After de-activating both the nursery’s Facebook page and its owner’s personal page on Saturday, management later re-activated both accounts, but with a cautionary note added.
“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 in their statement posted Sunday on Facebook.
And while suggesting that the ‘aunties’ would have to be at fault for any alleged ill treatment, they said the nursery 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.
This however has not served to quell public concerns surrounding the operations of the nursery, which remained closed last Monday, but re-opened for business last Tuesday, amid assurances by the Child Care Board (CCB) that the matter was now under active investigation.
In fact, several readers have taken issue with the CCB’s handling of the entire situation after the aunties claimed that they had called the child protection authorities on several occasions about the treatment that was being meted out to the children but to no avail.
“One of the major [problems] we keep having here is the Child Care Board (CCB) is always lacking in doing their job. Too many time have I heard of instances where these people have been called in to investigate and serious matters swept under the carpet,” one person said, while advising the CCB to have its officers do more regular spot checks.
This sentiment was echoed by another reader who described the CCB as “the worst Government department” on the island.
“All they know how to do is to want to treat men as though they’re delinquents. Why does this agency have to be wrapped in controversy again? Have they not learned from their recent experiences?” the viewer said in an apparent reference to the public dissatisfaction expressed over its handling of the Johan King and Shemar Weekes’ cases.
It therefore remains to be seen how this entire saga will end.
We will certainly seek to keep you up-to-date as developments happen.