Intoxicated Child

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A drunk / intoxicated child is the last thing any parent expects. Even worse is when the teachers and management also fail in their basic duty of care by not immediately informing the parents of the child affected and getting medical help.

A mum reported to the Southland Times newspaper that she arrived at her 4-year-old daughter’s centre at 5.30pm and noticed that there was something seriously wrong with her.

“If you looked into her eyes she clearly wasn’t there, she was stumbling and she smashed her head on the boot of my car and it didn’t faze her”.

said the child’s mother

Child was drunk

She rushed her daughter to hospital and her daughter was found to have a blood alcohol level of 188mg.

On the hospital’s request the mum phoned the centre to find out how long her daughter had been intoxicated. She was told teachers noticed ‘silly’ behaviour at 4.30pm.

The centre’s manager suggested to the Southland Times that the girl may have consumed some of the alcohol-based hand sanitizer they have at the centre. The hand-sanitizer container for adults is placed at adult-height on the wall and the child would have had to stand on a chair or something else to reach it.

The parent’s rights

  • To have their child receive supervision at all times when in the care of an early childhood centre – a child under 5 years of age is only safe if within sight of a responsible adult at all times.
  • To be informed immediately if the child has consumed a harmful substance or is exhibiting out-of-character behaviour; and if the parent cannot be reached then the centre should contact the person named by the parent as the emergency contact on the child’s enrolment form.
  • To lay a complaint with the centre owner and management and be listened to.
  • To make a complaint to the Ministry of Education in regard to the centre breaching licensing regulations, to be listened to and to have the complaint adequately investigated and addressed.

The child’s rights

  • To be kept safe from harm.
  • To experience care that is of the highest standard.
  • To have continuous, meaningful and caring relationships with the adults responsible for them in the childcare/early education programme that includes supportive relations with parents. (The code of children’s rights)

Legal compliance requirements under the Education (Early Childhood) Regulations and Criteria

  1. The centre must take all reasonable steps to promote the good health and safety of children enrolled in the service.
  2. The centre must have a health and safety hazard identification and management system, and regular checks for hazards must be carried out.  Hazards include cleaning agents, medicines, and poisons including alcohol-based poisons. 
  3. The centre must take all practicable steps to get immediate medical assistance for badly hurt or seriously ill children and parents must be notified.
  4. The centre must have a First Aid kit that includes the National Poisons centre phone number 0800 Poison.

Some reactions

This is terrible even if it was the hand sanitizer that caused her to be drunk. The centre should have called the parents immediately. I had thought that alcohol-based sanitizer would be banned from ECE centres. And where was the supervision that she was able to drink that much that she got drunk because of it? Hopefully this will be thoroughly investigated so that the parents can be reassured that this will never happen again.

It’s difficult to comment when we don’t know all the facts from all parties. I believe that it only takes one teaspoon of this sanitizer to create this result, so maybe this is a product that should at least be locked away with other hazardous substances. As far as supervision goes, the ratios of 1:10 are way too high. If a mother has ten children to look after she would get subsidised help, yet Teachers are supposed to work miracles. I think these sanitisers should be locked away, and not used when children are around. It will be interesting to know the full story here.

Once again, ratios are far too high for one person – we never run with only one adult – even if there is only one child – always two adults on duty. We have hand sanitizer available for the children to use on the odd occasion, but it is alcohol free.

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