Imagine how you would feel if you went to collect your child from day care or preschool, only to find the doors locked up tight, the windows darkened and the sound of your baby screaming inside.
One Chicago father knows the feeling exactly. Cornelius Jones went to pick up his 1-year-old daughter, Journee, on what was only her fourth day at a new day care center, only to find the doors locked and no answer when he called the inside office. No one was there. Except Journee, of course, who was crying somewhere in the darkened building.
Jones wasted no time calling 911 and his partner, Journee’s mother, Quanesha Borum. The door had to be broken down by firemen to get the baby out, but no answer as to why the baby was left alone was particularly satisfying or forthcoming. Borum certainly wasn’t impressed with what the director, Tommie Butler, had to say:
“She said that the lady that was in charge of Journee put her to sleep, and once everybody got ready to leave, she told her that everybody was gone… But my thing is, I come in here, and I sign her in and out, so why wasn’t the list checked before everybody left?” The director told Borum that an explanation for that could be that during a sweep of the building, Journee was mistaken for a doll.
Video: FOX32 Chicago
It seems child care workers should be able to differentiate between dolls and babies.
Journee was upset but unharmed, but her parents want the day care closed, in part because the police told them that this wasn’t the first time this has happened at the site.
Any working parent can imagine this nightmare scenario. It’s one of the biggest fears you have when you drop your child off at a new center. What if something bad happens? Your baby is forgotten, even harmed? Usually we write these fears off as completely irrational, but the fact is, scenarios like this can and do happen more than any of us would like to admit.
But another truth is that many parents aren’t even aware of what their day care’s policies are for emergency plans and scenarios like this one. In this case, Journee’s mother knew that the baby had to be signed in and out, which certainly compounded her anger and confusion. Why didn’t the fact that no one had signed the 1-year-old out again at the end of the day raise any red flags?
There’s often much, much more for parents to be aware of, though. Every day care should keep a list of who works there, what their credentials are and have multiple procedures in place for different kinds of emergencies, including when a child is forgotten in a nursery or classroom.
Parents have a right to see this material, and if the day care doesn’t offer it up readily in a handbook or as supplemental information at the time of enrollment, consider that a red flag. When you are vetting a day care, give yourself a second to think about worst-case scenarios: What would happen if there were a fire? An intruder? A missing child? Then ask how your provider handles those issues.
The Department of Health and Human Services in every state should have emergency preparedness documentation readily available online for providers to print out and fill in to keep their ducks in a row. Get your hands on the one for your state, and then go through it with your provider or potential provider.
Every day care is different. Some are bare-bones places with no frills; some are gleaming Montessori bastions that cost more than a mortgage. But every day care should, at a very minimum, be absolutely invested in the safety of the children in its care. If they seem reluctant to demonstrate that investment to you, they should absolutely be held accountable.
In this case, it seems practically inconceivable that this could happen not once, but twice, with very few repercussions for the owner.
Let’s hope for the sake of babies like Journee that this will change when the investigation is complete.