ChildForum Office of Pre-Primary Education

ChildForum Office of Pre-Primary EducationLead advisor on early childhood care and education 
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Publisher of the New Zealand-International Research in Early Childhood Journal

 

Toddler’s death: Too early to be naming and blaming early childhood centre

crying childLorenzo Miranda, 20 months, died of a brain bleed at hospital, in November 2017. He had attended a Palmerston North early childhood centre before his parents rushed him to hospital.

Police investigations are ongoing and the coroner has not yet ruled as to the cause of death.

Lorenzo’s death may have been as a result of a fall at the early childhood centre from a high seat. His mother claims that he fell from “a seat so high”.  

It is also claimed that she and his dad was not called by the centre and told about the fall. 

"Nobody told me anything when I went to pick him up, so we had no clue. We were just handed over a baby that had a brain bleed and we didn't know," Lorenzo’s dad said on Native Affairs which screened on Māori TV today (7/5/2018).

Not knowing about the alleged fall when it came to his treatment in hospital may or may not have been a factor contributing to his death. His parents had been trying to reach the preschool owners out-of-hours but by the time they got an answer Lorenzo had gone into cardiac arrest "they called and said, 'we've just heard about Lorenzo and he did have a fall today'."

The centre's two owners have not spoken publicly yet, nor have any teachers, and they may agree with or have a different version of what happened than the parents.  

Ministry of Education responsibilities

If Lorenzo did fall from a high seat as it is alleged, the Ministry of Education has not responded in a timely way by giving specific advice or reminders to early childhood services across the country about the use of adult-sized chairs or high chairs that don't have restraints; and therefore failed in its capacity of steward of the ECE sector to provide children with the highest level of health and safety protection, that is reasonably practicable.

It would appear that the Ministry did not investigate the early childhood centre that Lorenzo attended following notification of his death last year.  However, after receiving a complaint in March this year it felt the complaint warranted placing the centre on a provisional licence and undertaking a full check of the centre.  The centre has been returned to a full licence.

The Ministry of Education has not released information to the sector and to the community as to whether any breaches of regulations – such as not informing Lorenzo’s parents – were confirmed. However, on Māori TV a statement from the Ministry of Education was read, saying that the Ministry believed staff acted appropriately. On the other hand, Lorenzo's parents allege that they were not informed that he appeared unwell but they guessed something was wrong when they arrived to pick him up. They allege that they were not told about any fall when they picked Lorenzo up.  

It is a legal requirement that all practicable steps are taken to get immediate medical assistance for a child who is seriously injured or becomes seriously ill and to notify a parent of what has happened. (My ECE -  https://www.myece.org.nz/centre-mininum-legal-requirements/114-first-aid)

See:  Child death and serious injury in early childhood education – 'Let’s get it out in the open'

See:  NZ Herald article by Simon Collins Family want answers after toddler dies

 

Falls and using adult-sized furniture in ECE group environments

The use of adult-sized chairs and tables in ECE group environments is something that requires some thinking about and discussion in the early childhood sector. 

Falls are a known and major cause of injuries for young children in New Zealand. Thirty-eight percent of non-fatal fall injuries in children 0-4 years of age between 2008-2012 related to a “fall from a chair.” (Plunket statistics from ACC recorded injuries). 

A poll that closes shortly asks:

“Should early childhood centres use an adult-sized chair to seat a toddler or young child (18 months - 4 years)?” 

See: https://www.facebook.com/MyECE.NZ

At the time of publication of this article, 92% of voters had answered NO to the question (out of a total of 389 votes).  The Poll is due to close soon.

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