Imagine being told that your child not only managed to escape their childcare centre but was also found next to an incredibly busy main road?

This is exactly what happened to two families after they discovered their toddlers somehow managed to escape their daycare centre on the Gold Coast and head towards the road.

Two girls comes to children’s aid

Driver Ronelle Nicol shared dramatic dashcam footage on a local Facebook page last year, showing two children running away from their daycare – Okeedokee Coomera Rivers – on the Gold Coast.

childcare centre fined after children escape
Okeedokee Childcare Coomera Rivers. Source: Okeedokee

The children, both aged two, had somehow escaped through the back gate. Two Year Six girls who happened to be walking their dog nearby ran to the aid of the children and pulled them to safety.

Every parent’s worst nightmare

One of the toddlers who escaped was a little girl named Skyla. Her family was only told of the incident when her father came and picked her up at 5:30pm and didn’t share the exact details of what happened.

Skyla’s mother also described the incident as her “worst nightmare” and has since taken her daughter out of that childcare centre.

She got out through the back gate, she went walking down on Foxwell Road where the main road is. 

She was seconds away – she went to take a step off the gutter to try and go onto the road.”

Skyla’s grandmother, Donna Urquhart tells Mum Central,

It was only due to social media that I actually got to see what actually happened.

We were told that she was only missing for a matter of minutes, however, the lady who stopped said that when she took the kids back inside, they told her that they didn’t even realise they were missing.

If it wasn’t for the quick thinking and actions from those young girls predominately, my granddaughter would, more than likely, not be with us anymore.”

Since the incident took place last October, Okeedokee Coomera Rivers has copped a $15,600 fine for failing to protect and supervise children in its care. However, the childcare facility is still running and is “meeting national childcare standards” according to StartingBlocks.gov.au. 

Okeedokee Kids Pty Ltd was found guilty of four charges including:

  • Failing to adequately supervise children
  • Failing to protect children from harm
  • Failing to ensure policies and procedures are followed
  • Children leaving an education service premises

The first two charges each resulted in a fine of $7500, while the latter charges brought fines of $300 each.

In a statement, the Queensland Department of Education – which took legal action against the service – said it welcomed the penalties imposed and that they reflected the seriousness of the offences.

The prosecution sends a strong message to all approved providers about their responsibilities to closely supervise and protect the children in their care from risk of harm,” the statement said.

In particular, the magistrate noted there is a high level of trust placed in a service by parents, and this incident could have resulted in death or serious injury.

It is critical that everyone involved in the provision of education and care to children is aware of the importance of active supervision, and this case shows the serious consequences that can result when children are not adequately supervised.”

Failure to protect children from harm

This isn’t the first time a childcare centre has failed to protect the children. One mother tells Mum Central of a similar situation where her son escaped through the front door and managed to get into the car of another mother picking up her child. This happened in a childcare centre in Melbourne.

In March 2020 a Goodstart Early Learning bus driver and centre director left a three-year-old in the back of the bus for six scorching hours in Cairns, Queensland. The little boy, Meeky, died. The Goodstart Early Learning driver pleaded guilty to manslaughter and is currently serving a six-year jail sentence.

We also recently shared a story of a one-year-old who arrived home from her daycare covered in bite marks.  The childcare centre did not inform the mother and have not addressed the issue.

A Queensland Department of Education spokesman said supervision policies and procedures were its priority due to the risk of harm to children if not complied with.

The department will continue to work with the early childhood education and care sector to promote active supervision, protect children from harm, and ensure governance arrangements are sufficient,” he said.

Where the steps taken by providers are inadequate, the department will not hesitate to take appropriate action.”

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Author

Born and raised in Canada, Jenna now lives in Far North Queensland with her tribe. When the mum-of-three is not writing, you can find her floating in the pool, watching princess movies, frolicking on the beach, bouncing her baby to sleep or nagging her older kids to put on their pants.

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