Unlicensed operators and unskilled minders are blamed for the rise in infant deaths at childcare centres.
Shamsinah Che Shariff, president of the Association of Registered Child Care Providers Malaysia (ARCPM), said many cases of infant deaths at childcare centres occurred at unlicensed centres operated by housewives.
She said the country had about 3,000 nurseries and childcare centres, but only about 1,000 were registered with the Social Welfare Department.
“Many of the cases of infant deaths resulted from the babies being cared for by housewives untrained as childminders in their own houses which are not registered as places for the care of babies and children,” she said.
Shamsinah quoted Social Welfare Department statistics indicating that six infants died at childcare centres last year while this year â€“ up to July â€“ seven cases of infant deaths were reported.
“We see a rise in the number of deaths, and this is most worrying. We do not want to have infants cared for by the untrained and without heed for standards,” she said, adding that deaths at registered centres accounted for only eight percent of the total.
Shamsinah said the deaths of babies at care centres were caused not only by their choking on milk but also blows to the head, believed to have been caused by the use of improvised cots.
“We find that many childminders at unregistered centres use cots to get babies to sleep. However, the Social Welfare Department has prohibited the use of cots at childcare centres for fear that vigorous shaking can result in blows to the head, which we call shaken baby syndrome,” she said.
She advised childminders who cared for more than three babies or children to register with the Social Welfare Department so that they could be trained in the proper and safe way of childminding.
Shamsinah also suggested that the department make it obligatory for childminders taking care of even one infant to register so as to be able to attend the course as well as for the monitoring of the care centre.
She said ARCPM had provided training in basic childminding to more than 3,000 registered childminders from 2000 and all of them had shown tremendous improvement after attending the course.
“It is our hope that more childminders will attend the training at ARCPM and we hope that the government will give free training to them. ARCPM has conducted a pilot project by providing free training and toys.
“The training is provided over five days and the childminders are given training aids, including the relevant toys, which cost RM500 and mentors are made available to monitor and guide them in conducting activities for a child’s total development,” she said.
Shamsinah said the monitoring showed that the childminders were able to change their approach in terms of minding, educating, feeding and diversifying activity and were not embarrassed to sing or tell stories to the children.
“In fact, childminders at home also teach children to clean themselves, fold clothes and snap vegetables with the fingers, instead of just making them sleep or watch television daily,” she said.
Shamsinah advised parents to send their children to registered childcare centres of quality with trained childminders.
“The development of children is most critical in their first four years. They are quick to learn and remember.
“Select care centres which ‘teach as teachers, mind as mothers’ and guide with love and use good language for the development of language and attitude,” she said.
(Picture courtesy of Reuters.)