Indian baby found locked in Sydney childcare centre (Lead)

June 3rd, 2008 - 5:15 pm ICT by IANS  

By Neena Bhandari
Sydney, June 3 (IANS) After a hard day’s work, an Indian couple here reached a childcare centre to pick up their baby, only to find the place locked and in darkness. It took nearly an hour before their one-year-old daughter was found sleeping inside. When Bharat and Gayatri Iyengar arrived at the Scribbles and Giggles child-care centre in Sydney’s western suburb of Rydalmere to pick up their daughter Ankita Monday evening, they found the centre closed.

“When I got there I found the childcare centre closed. It was dark; there was nothing happening there. That was a shock to me because it was only 6.04 p.m. and the centre closes at 6 p.m.,” Bharat told the Sydney Morning Herald.

“At that point I started to freak out because I thought, ‘Nobody has called us, there’s a chance the baby could be inside’. We couldn’t get in touch with anyone from the centre.”

The distressed parents called the police, who tracked the centre’s owner. “The owner arrived about 6.50 p.m. My wife was crying. We went into the centre and switched on the lights. We opened one door and there was no one inside.

“Then we noticed the door to the next room and there she was, lying harnessed in a bouncer in the dark. I picked the baby up and just held her in my arms and she started crying,” Bharat told the newspaper while recounting the events of the agonising hour.

Anthony Khalil, the owner of the childcare centre, admitted that the centre had failed in its duty of care.

“I make no excuse for what happened. We know we were wrong. I think it was just a very big misunderstanding. It’s just lucky that the baby is ok,” Khalil told the Sydney Morning Herald.

As the New South Wales (NSW) Department of Community Services begins investigating the incident, the centre has put in place a roster system whereby one staff member will check each room individually to avoid a repeat of such a lapse.

NSW Community Services Minister Kevin Greene told reporters it was every parent’s worst nightmare and “if penalties need to be applied, they can and will be applied by the department”.

Penalties can range from restricting the centre’s licence to substantial fines.

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