Leah Brunton, of Lismore, with 19-month-old Abby and Ava, 3, at a playgroup.
Leah Brunton, of Lismore, with 19-month-old Abby and Ava, 3, at a playgroup. The Northern Star

Lismore children's care shuts kids away

LAST week three-year-old Ava Brunton and her 19-month-old sister Abby were supposed to be taken by their carer to a family day care centre to play with other kids.

However the girls' carer – employed by the Family Day Care Centre in Lismore – cancelled the trip after receiving a letter last week which ordered carers to fill out detailed risk-assessment forms for every trip they take – whether to the zoo or the post office.

Lismore Family Day Care Centre tightened the rules following the drowning in April of a toddler at Tweed Heads South during a day care outing.

The girls' mother, Leah Brunton of Lismore, said the carer had cancelled the trip after saying the paperwork was excessive.

"I feel sad for our carer because now she's nervous about taking the kids out," she said.

"I think this is an overreaction."

However, Lismore Family Day Care Centre Chief Executive Officer Sol Ibrahim said the letter was aimed at ensuring the safety of kids in his care.

Mr Ibrahim said carers employed at the Family Day Care Centre had always filled out risk assessment forms before kids were taken on excursions.

However, because trips to the post office or a day care centre were not classified as an excursion, such paperwork had not been required.

"Often parents would ask carers to go to the post office or do something on the way home when they had kids in their care, but the risk of these activities was not being assessed by the carer," he said.

"I am responsible for the lives of these kids, and if this new measure means postponing excursions till the appropriate paperwork is filled out, or if some trips are cancelled because they are too unsafe, then so be it."

Mr Ibrahim confirmed the decision to send out the letter last week was in part a response to the Tweed drowning.

He said if his child care service did not do something to further ensure each child's safety then 'nothing would have been gained from this tragedy'.

Another carer employed by the agency, who declined to be named, said the letter virtually banned carers taking children out of the house without the appropriate paperwork.

"I was absolutely horrified by the letter because I try to do the right thing, but now I can't even pick the kids up from school or go to playgroup without filling out a form," she said.

Leah Brunton said she feared there could be long-term consequences because of her children's carer having to fill out forms for everything she did with them.

"Of course as a parent I want things to be safe, but sometimes adults jump in too quickly and kids end up not learning how to deal with real life problems," she said. "We will end up with a soft generation."

Co-ordinator of the Far North Coast Zone Playgroup Association, Tracy Rudd, said many parents she spoke to chose family day care because they didn't want their kids in an institutionalised environment.

"Family day care is often chosen by parents who want their children to interact with other kids, have fun and be stimulated as close to home as possible," she said.

Ms Rudd warned the new requirements of the Lismore Family Day Care Centre could turn the care into a 'hypersensitive environment.'

However, Mr Ibrahim said that times had changed since the Family Day Care Centre in Lismore began operating 30 years ago, as had requirements for the running of a safe and effective practice.

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