Sunday 26 January 2020

Grainne Cunningham: Night the nation was left in shock at what occurs in creches

Grainne Cunningham
Grainne Cunningham

AS A mother, I was deeply disturbed and upset by the scenes on television last night.

In many ways it was the moment we all woke up to what's happening behind closed doors in some creches.

Because my shock and upset at the footage secretly filmed in creches by RTE's 'Prime Time' team was shared by parents all over Ireland.

Many of us will be asking how the HSE allows this to continue in poorly staffed creches.

The threats, scolding and angry words directed at already deeply distressed children, unable to protest physically or verbally, made for very uncomfortable viewing.

Seeing a hysterical child desperately pleading to get out of a chair he was strapped into brought tears to my eyes.

The children shown were so defenceless and small – and the adults so loud and aggressive – that it was difficult viewing.

Any parent who has ever left their child alone with a carer – and surely that includes most of us – is likely to have shared my distress.

Minding children is a challenging job, not least because you are dealing with little people who have very strong minds of their own, but limited ways of expressing distress, anger and frustration.

Almost every parent will remember with shame times when they met those emotions with their own anger, frustration and distress.

Few of us have not lost it at one stage or another, but rarely with the same complete absence of compassion depicted in the confrontations on last night's programme.

Instead of soothing children who were already crying and distressed, the adults shouted, threatened and scolded the children further, tactics the average mother knows won't work and will only serve to escalate the situation.

Every parent will have been shocked, saddened and appalled by the manhandling and blackmail which was depicted on screen.

In fairness to the workers shown, it was clear that in some cases they were overstretched and there was inadequate staff ing to deal with the number of children in their care.

But as a mother of triplets, I know exactly how that feels and there were many times in the first two years when I experienced sheer desperation trying to cope with three active, wilful boys, who collectively had way more energy then I had.

And I'm not saying that I never raised my voice or was firmer than I should have been. But the big difference was that I love them boundlessly and that deep-felt emotion was always present, even when I felt I was at the end of my tether.

That was probably the clearest failing of those careworkers who behaved inappropriately – they had no emotional bond with the children and seemed to see them only as a series of tasks to be completed as quickly and firmly as possible.

Unlike parents, their objective was not rearing curious, independent, lively young people. They apparently just wanted to get the job done whatever it took.

Good childminders, and they are surely in the majority, are like surrogate parents.

They love children and their job is a happy union of work and pleasure.

Last night's programme is to be commended for opening a debate, for getting parents talking and for focusing attention on some of the problems with the country's childcare system.

Hopefully, we will see some improvements as a result.

Irish Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News