Workers at two daycare centres in Nova Scotia failed to report suspected child abuse in the past two years, CBC News has learned.

Now, the minister in charge of early childhood development is reviewing the rules to make sure it doesn't happen again.

According to the province's daycare regulations, if a child-care centre suspects abuse — be it physical, neglect, sexual or emotional harm — protocol says it must be reported.

In May of this year, Middleton and District Day Care Centre failed to report a suspected case of child abuse and neglect.

The same thing happened back in November of 2012 at the Orchards Away Day Care Centre in Berwick.

Both of these suspected abuse cases happened outside the daycare.

'Once we have all the pieces fitting nicely together, we'll have good safety net. This information is telling me that's not all together right now.' - Karen Casey

"It's alarming. It is unacceptable and it's troubling, no question," said Education and Early Childhood Development Minister Karen Casey.

"I think there have been a couple of situations, perhaps, where somebody has used their own best judgment as opposed to erring on the side of the children and reporting. If it's found to be not an abuse, that's for somebody else to determine. We can't afford to let people be using their own judgment."

The issues came to light when investigators visited the daycares to carry out inspections.  

For privacy reasons, the government won't comment on individual cases or say what actually happened to the children involved.

Casey would say the matters have since been turned over to Child Welfare Services, where people are trained to investigate these cases.

"I commend the inspectors who picked up on this during their inspection of the daycare. They are the ones that discovered that there had been a suspected child abuse that hadn't  been reported to the minister. So immediately, once that's found, it has to be reported and it is reported immediately. We'd like that to be done by the daycares themselves and not found by the inspectors. So there is a level of accountability there through our inspectors," she said.

Orchards Away Day Care Centre refused to comment on the violation. Middleton District Day Care would only say the situation has since been dealt with.

People in Berwick and Middleton were shocked at the news.

Tony Saba said he trusts the staff at Orchards Away.

"It's a good daycare ... nice people, I've never had a problem. I used to keep my daughter there since she was 14 months. She loved the staff over there and everybody loved her," he said.

Logan Menzies attended when he was young.

"It's just a great learning environment. You learn what you need to know, the basics for elementary school. Great staff, great support if you need it. Lots of games to play, you just have fun. I'd recommend it to anyone, hands down," he said.

Criteria changing

Information obtained by CBC News under the Freedom of Information Act shows 842 pages of violations by close to 400 child-care centres in the province.

There were a handful of other serious incidents that were not reported to the minister.

One time a child wandered away and the daycare didn't report it to the department. In another case, a child hit their head and it was not reported.

Investigators noted cases where kids were physically punished in daycares. Others where children were confined and isolated, which in at least one case was a time out.

"Once we have all the pieces fitting nicely together, we'll have good safety net. This information is telling me that's not all together right now," said Casey.

"Whenever you ever put human beings into the mix you get people who interpret things certain ways."

Casey said her office is reviewing the regulations to see if they need to be tightened to prevent any more lapses.

"One case is one too many in my opinion. If we have clear definitions, if we have criteria, if we have staff who are well informed and we have daycare operators we enforce and we have inspectors who follow up — we should be able to close every gap so there are no more of these," she said.

daycare kids playing

The Canadian Child Care Federation says parents need to research daycares. (CBC)

"Will it be foolproof? It may not be, but we are certainly going to give it a try because when you have children's safety in the mix you need to make sure you have done everything possible and everybody understands what they are and are not to do and what they must and must not report."

Casey said she's also reviewing whether there are enough inspectors to monitor daycares.

Do your homework on daycares

Don Giesbrecht, head of the the Canadian Child Care Federation, said the fact that these incidents were caught shows the system is accountable.

Still, he said the violations tell him there are not enough daycare spots in Canada. He said often people are so relieved to find a spot, they don't investigate the child-care facility.

"Really, families need to carry some of the weight of this. They have to do some research. They have to spend some times and ask those questions and do some digging," Giesbrecht said

"Your children will answer your questions. They will tell you what's going. I know as a parent myself, you get a lot of, 'Oh, what did you do today?' 'Nothing.' You have to dig deeper. How is your child at the end of the day? Are they happy? Are they sad? What is the communication coming back from the program?" he said.

Giesbrecht said if you feel something is not quite right, bring your concern to the daycare administration and even to the province.

"They then have a responsibility to act on your concern and they should act on your concern," he said.

If you're in small town ask around, said Giesbrecht. Outstanding violations can be found on the department's website.