Can Parents be Made to Pay for Breakages?

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A parent asks can she be made to pay for breakages.

Her child’s centre has told her child was involved in breaking a window and wants her to pay toward the cost of window replacement.  

She believes her child did not do it, and no one saw the incident. But the centre insists here child did and that she should pay.

At the centre, when other things are broken by a child, such as a toy, parents are also given a bill for the cost of the breakage or replacement.

What are your thoughts on this? 

We asked Dr Sarah Alexander for her opinion on asking parents to pay for breakages. Dr Alexander replies:

Even if a child broke something and it can be proven that the child did, it is unreasonable of an early childhood service to request payment for broken items, whether it is a toy or a window.    

Some reasons ae:

  1. The service, its teacher or other adults were responsible for the child in the place of the child’s parent. The service was acting in loco parentis
  2. The child is too young to be held financially responsible for their actions.
  3. A centre should have insurance to cover breakages.  

Moreover, what were the adults at the service doing when this incident is said to have happened? 

  • Was the child being supervised?
  • Was an adult involved in the child’s play, guiding and scaffolding the child’s learning?

If it comes down to who is at fault – perhaps the fault lies at the door of the centre for not providing adequate support of the child and supervision.

I would suggest the parent not pay for the broken window, let the centre know they are referring the demand for payment to their lawyer, and make a complaint to the Ministry of Education regarding supervision and support of children.

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