Yesterday I took my friend Kerry to Drumheller to do a bit of site-seeing and souvenir shopping. There are a number of places worthy of note because of how unique the landscape is. When we went to the museum, of course we were going to climb up to the lookout.
Now, it was plain as day what was happening at the lookout, even before we got over there. A large group of children were at various levels on the stairs, all the way up to the lookout.
And at the bottom, across the road from where the stairs started, were three women. Gossiping.
There were no adults up with the children.
What I couldn’t be certain of was whether they were daycare or school. The kids looked 4-5 years old. Here you can start Kindergarten when you’re 4, and most daycares combine 4 and 5 year old kids.
Plus, when they got picked up, it was with a school bus. Which means nothing, because it could have been a rental – that’s what they do here. Unless the kids were picked up with a daycare vehicle with a name on it, there was no way to know for sure.
Anyway, Kerry and I are climbing up the stairs and a child is at the top, crying. Kerry automatically went to him to see what was wrong, and the boy beside him asked me to help him with his backpack. Of course, since all that separated the children from the ‘forbidden zone’ was a simple wooden fence, they were going out of bounds on the other side of the stairs and lookout area.
And the gabbing women couldn’t even see them.
Of course this raised all kinds of questions for Kerry, about ratios and what not. The kids had no ‘tag’ on them – usually, daycares will pin tags on kids to identify where they’re from in case they do get separated from the group.
So, I can’t be certain, but I think this was a school class.
Kevin knows this all too well – I see something like this I’m usually in someone’s face. This time, I was warning Kerry, because as soon as the crying child went to her for help and the other boy came to me for help with his bag, one of the three women came up to the top and then sent all the kids down.
And I had to warn Kerry about the risks of approaching a child, thinking all the while Has it really come to this in our society?
It has. Sadly, with the way that allegations are reported as fact and with the damage they can do alone, many people are reluctant to be a good Samaritan anymore, because they might get themselves into trouble. Approach a child who’s crying, what if that child had been injured? Three staff there who deserve to get their butts kicked, but if there had been an incident that caused injury (the reason for him crying) do you think they’d acknowledge not being there to see it? Kerry could have been a scapegoat – just make the accusation that this woman did something to detract from their own guilt.
Now, I’ve been on the reporting side, so I’m also aware of how little the regulating agencies typically do about even serious allegations. I once filed 28 pages of code violations against an employer of mine – as though you didn’t know it already, do NOT piss me off when it comes to the safety of kids – and the licensing board did nothing.
Pathetic. Doubly so because I had supporting witnesses.
The incident yesterday was minor. It was nothing more than a boy who’d slipped and started to cry. No serious injuries and nobody to report anything to, although I still feel like shit about that. I’ve been wondering if I called the Museum if they’d know what school group was there in the morning.
I’ve been wondering if they’d tell me.
Meanwhile, The Children's Aid Society was twice alerted to the mental problems suffered by a Barrie mother accused of killing her two preschoolers, but only removed them from her custody temporarily during hospital stays, newly released court documents show.
Now, this really breaks my heart, because of the reason for this investigation now. The mother killed her two children.
Some days, I read stuff like this and I’m really angry. Other times, I’m just depressed. We have these agencies in place in order to protect children. And there have been times they’ve gone too far, erring on the side of caution, removing a child who’d had bruises from falling off their bike, for example.
But then situations like this come up and they don’t do nearly enough. And files are getting opened.
I have a lot of friends who grew up in the system. Some of them have wanted to read their files. I personally have never thought about reading my own children’s aid file. It isn’t likely to tell me anything I don’t already know.
Still, I look at situations like this and wonder if it should be the people who’ve been through the system who should stand up and call for change. I’m always a sucker for a cause, but how do you convey to people who’ve had no direct experience with the system what the problems with the system are?
Do people only stop to care when a mother murders her one-year-old and three-year-old daughters?
It’s a source of frustration for me, and part of why I couldn’t stomach working in education anymore. So many people are just content to turn a blind eye. They don’t want to take the risk or make the effort of getting involved.
Which always ends up leaving those who are willing to stand up standing alone.
In my mind, one little incident at a museum yesterday isn’t so far removed from the grieving family who buried two children. It’s symptoms of the same problem: indifference, bred of laziness and a lack of real concern for doing the right thing instead of a willingness to do what’s convenient.