Baby left behind in childcare centre

JODY O'CALLAGHAN AND SHANE COWLISHAW
Last updated 05:00 22/02/2013
Anton Stapp
CRAIG SIMCOX/Fairfax NZ
TO THE RESCUE: The childcare centre's neighbour Anton Stapp heard the baby crying.

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Neighbours had to break into a Porirua childcare centre to rescue a crying baby who had been left behind after the centre closed.

The 9-month-old boy was left alone in his cot at the Samoan Early Education Development Services (Seeds) centre when it closed at 5.30pm on Wednesday.

About an hour later Anton Stapp, whose driveway is next to the Maher Place centre in Porirua East, came out of his house and heard the baby crying.

"I sort of left it for a couple of minutes because I'm used to them crying," he said yesterday.

"Then I realised it was a bit late and there were no cars around. I was a bit shocked, in disbelief."

He tapped on the window, and saw the baby go quiet. "He was lying in a cot."

When another neighbour joined him, he hoisted her through a window that had been left ajar.

At that point the child's mother and grandmother turned up. "Mum was a bit emotional, a bit panicky when she first showed up," Mr Stapp said.

He thought the "young fella" had been alone for between 40 minutes and an hour.

Seeds manager Tolo Pereira said she was "gutted at what happened", and the incident was being investigated. "Staff did not know until this morning, when the family came in."

The Ministry of Education is working with Seeds on the investigation. The ministry visited the site, and the boy was back in the centre's care yesterday after talks with the family.

"The little baby is very dear to us," Ms Pereira said.

"It is absolutely serious and we have acknowledged it, and with the appropriate people. We're not denying that we've failed the family."

Ministry group manager of early childhood education Karl Le Quesne confirmed a complaint had been received and that the ministry had visited the centre to investigate, and ensure the safety and wellbeing of children there.

Senior Sergeant Justin Rakena said police received a call from the neighbour at 6.34pm, but no officers attended because the mother arrived soon after, and the baby was safe.

Police would investigate further only if the parents made a formal complaint.

The centre is one of three Seeds centres in Porirua, which are privately owned providers of Christian and Samoan language-based care and learning for children aged up to 5.

The Maher Place centre was the first, opening in February 2003. Another opened in Waitangirua in August 2009, and the third in Elsdon in February 2011.

Of the six staff members listed on the company's website as working at the Maher Place centre, four have an early childhood qualification.

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- The Dominion Post

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