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Quebec daycare center facing allegations of abuse and neglect closes

A daycare center in Quebec that has been in the public eye since a runaway incident and a CBC News investigation last fall will close its doors permanently.

The owners of the Enchanted Garden say they are closing for “personal reasons” and that “the management of the pandemic” and “a shortage of qualified childcare staff” also played a role in their decision.

Geneviève Côté and Richard Cazes indicated in the written statement that no children are currently attending the daycare.

The daycare made headlines when three toddlers left unnoticed on October 28, 2021 and were later found across a busy city highway. The incident sparked investigations by youth protection authorities and the Ministry of Family Affairs.

Two of the three children were discovered in a bog and at least one must have been pulled out of the mud by a passerby. Nursery staff thought only two children were missing and only realized three were gone when the police brought all the children back.

A CBC News investigation found child protection authorities launched an earlier investigation into the unsubsidized private daycare after a parent said they saw a staff member pick up a seated child by the arm and throw him against a wall.

In a November 2021 interview, Côté, the director and co-owner, confirmed the investigation but said, to her knowledge, no children had been hit by staff. The CBC investigation also uncovered other incidents of alleged negligence.

Ministry warning

On November 24, 2021, the Ministère de la Famille notified the owners that they would lose their operating license for the Enchanted Garden.

In the following days, the owners, who also own and operate nine other child care centres, said in a written statement that they intended to challenge the government’s decision.

The ministry justified its decision with Cazes by pointing out that the daycare had received several notices of non-compliance, in particular for not having enough qualified personnel on site, not storing medication in a safe manner or not disposing of expired medication. , and not properly storing cleaning or toxic products. .

The ministry also said the center has “a high number of complaints compared to other centers of comparable size.”

Complaints, according to the ministry, included not spending enough time outdoors with children. There have also been complaints about poor menus, underqualified staff and inappropriate attitudes towards children – including violence from some staff. The letter does not indicate the outcome of the complaints.

Catherine Baboudjian complained to the Ministry of Family about the daycare and is relieved that an investigation has been carried out. (Marika Wheeler/CBC)

“I am happy on the one hand that they are closing, on the other hand I do not know what it means for potentially other places where the same management problems could occur,” said Catherine Baboudjian, whose two children attended daycare until June. 2021.

Baboudjian says she is curious to know what will happen to the ministry’s investigation. The Ministry of Family confirms that its investigation is ongoing, even if the daycare is closed.

Following CBC’s report last fall, Families Minister Mathieu Lacombe expressed frustration that, despite owners facing “numerous complaints” against their various daycares, the law allows his department to act on one daycare at a time.

A freedom of information request revealed that the ministry had not sent a warning to other child care centers owned by the Cazes and Cotes that their licenses could be revoked.