toddlers with their heads pushed into the toilet

AP

NOS News

In Belgium, two childcare centers were closed last week by inspection due to abuse. The permit has been permanently withdrawn from one in Oudenaarde, below Ghent. And another one in Keerbergen, between Antwerp and Brussels, is to close for two months. It has rumbled in the sector for a long time.

Horror stories, that’s what the Belgian media call the abuses in the childcare center in Oudenaarde. ‘t (B)engeltje was already closed on Thursday, but now more is known about what happened there.

In the inspection report in the hands of Het Laatste Nieuws, it appears that it was regularly difficult. Children who dared to sit on the children’s toilet with their hands were pushed in with their heads. The toilet was then flushed, the inspection found. And if the children refused to eat, they were treated harshly.

Fed until they threw up

“Food was shoved into their mouths until they choked, resulting in vomiting. Then they were pushed into a corner. One child who wouldn’t eat even had his head pulled back and placed between his knees to make to force feed,” says a former employee of the nursery in Oudenaarde.

The supervisor presented this to the caretaker. “It’s true that we sometimes stand behind the children to help them eat,” the woman replies. “It is possible that they put their head back. Then sometimes their head comes between the legs. But it is not located between the knees.”

Changing signals in Keerbergen

At the Mippie and Moppie 2 crisis center in Keerbergen, an employee has reported this to the authorities. She sent a photo of a child in her sleeping bag, which was attached to a bed with duct tape.

According to the founder of the daycare, this is slander by a former employee. “We were supposed to fire her and then she does this.” According to the owner, the scene was staged with duct tape.

Several parents tell HLN that they are satisfied with the care, and the councilor in Childcare says in recent years that he has had no official reports of abuse at the nursery in Keerbergen.

The reception is under heavy pressure

At the beginning of this year, an incident at a childcare center in Mariakerke, a sub-municipality of Ghent, caused quite an uproar. A six-month-old baby died of brain trauma, likely the result of shaken baby syndrome, which develops when a baby is violently shaken.

For years there had been complaints of violence in ‘t Sloeberhuisje. The then welfare minister Beke expressed his surprise that the inspectorate had not decided to close the shelter.

Childcare in Belgium has been under pressure for some time. Each carer is responsible for an average of nine children, which is much higher than in the rest of Europe.

It is waiting for an accident.

Michel Vandenbroeck, Associate Professor in Family Education

It is a big problem, says Michel Vandenbroeck, Associate Professor in Family Education at Ghent University, to NOS. “We see that more and more employees are dropping out or quitting, and that more and more housing groups are staying open for shorter periods or even closing their doors permanently. It was first a Brussels problem, then you saw it again in other cities and now also in non-urban areas.”

It is difficult to say whether the excesses have arisen because the sector is under pressure. However, international studies of similar situations have been carried out in the past. “We know from this that there is a good chance that things will go wrong if the employees are so stressed. Then people can lose patience. And if people work in isolation, it takes too long before the alarm bells ring. That is a risk for us to go in Flanders, it awaits an accident.”

Hope for change

The crisis in the shelter has been going on for a long time, since the 1990s. “Politicians initially did nothing for a long time, and only when it became very violent did money go to the sector. But it always had to be done in the cheapest possible way. If you calculate the state contribution per hour per child, then it is approximately half of what employees receive in the Netherlands.”

Vandenbroeck sincerely hopes that the sector will change. “Partly because of the scandals and the recent actions by parents and staff, political and social support has never been higher.”

Welfare Minister Crevits has promised to develop a plan next year with employers, employees and experts to improve the situation in childcare.

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