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Govt ‘must do more’ to protect children in care Sheelagh Cooper

The Coalition for the Protection of Children has echoed the calls of a grieving parent for a crackdown on those breaching childcare rules.

The Royal Gazette reported earlier this week that childminder Jennifer Franks was handed a suspended sentence and community service over the death of a toddler who accidentally strangled himself when she left him home alone.

According to the Coalition, Government “must do more” to prevent similar tragedies occurring in future.

Nasir Burgess, 18 months, was left in a playpen close to an electrical cord dangling from an air conditioning unit.

It got wrapped around his neck and killed him after Franks left him unattended while she went to pick her adult daughter up from work nearby.

Franks, 57, ran a day care facility at her Pembroke home and had worked as a child carer for around 25 years.

She was only supposed to be caring for three children under Government rules.

However, prosecutor Maria Sofianos told the sentencing hearing she’d illegally been caring for up to 12 children prior to Nasir’s death.

Nasir is the son of bank worker Arleyne Emery, 32, and air conditioning company worker Corey Burgess, 40, from Smith’s.

Mr Burgess delivered an emotional statement in court about the devastating impact his son’s death has had on them.

“Nasir’s unfortunate death should send a serious message to the government agencies and departments responsible for ensuring our children are being cared for and protected by all day care providers,” he added.

“Nasir’s death is a clear indication that all is not right within the current system and steps must be taken to ensure this does not happen to another child.”

During the hearing, Mr Justice Greaves expressed his deep sympathy to the parents and echoed Mr Burgess’ call for government to monitor day care providers more rigorously.

However, he also said: “I don’t think any of us are so perfect that we would walk around our house and start moving around the air conditioning cords.

“This case is simply an unfortunate accident, to put it in a lay person’s terms.”

Sheelagh Cooper from the Coalition was disappointed with the handling of the case, telling

The Royal Gazette: “The sentencing and comments made by Puisne Judge Carlisle Greaves sends a message to the community that this was not a major tragedy. It was.

“The death of a young innocent child is devastating and while there was no intention to harm the young child, the gross negligence is startling.

“As an agency concerned with child protection, this sentence is hard to swallow. It also provides clear evidence that the Government must do more to enforce stringent day care regulations to protect our young people.

“More people are utilising non-licensed and unregulated day care facilities, and Government must respond to this.”

The Franks case came four years after similar concerns were raised during the case of another day care provider, Betty Jean Steede.

Steede was convicted at Supreme Court of grievous bodily harm, after a baby suffered a broken leg at her hands.

It emerged during the trial that although Steede was only registered to care for up to three children, she was actually looking after as many as seven.

Despite the licensing process requiring a criminal-background check, Health Department files did not list her previous convictions for importing heroin and obstructing police under the Misuse of Drugs Act.

There are around 110 child day care providers registered with the Department of Health.

Sheelagh Cooper of the Coalition for the Protection of Children

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Published January 29, 2013 at 8:00 am (Updated January 28, 2013 at 10:31 pm)

Govt ‘must do more’ to protect children in care Sheelagh Cooper

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