Mother battles daycare after operator refers to children in 'inappropriate manner'

A B.C. small claims tribunal has found that referring to children as "a**holes" is a breach of the basic rules of daycare.

UBC professor says case fits rising trend of parents reporting kids not being treated with respect

A B.C. small claims tribunal heard the case of a parent who pulled her children from a daycare after the operator called them 'a**holes' in a text. (Radio-Canada Archives)

A B.C. small claims tribunal has found that referring to children as "a**holes" is a breach of the basic rules of daycare.

The decision follows a situation in which a mother abruptly pulled her two kids out of a daycare when the business operator inadvertently sent her a text message referring to the children as "a**holes" — written with asterisks.

The daycare operator — known only as AP — took the woman to B.C.'s Civil Resolution Tribunal, claiming she was owed $1,800 for cancelling their contract without 30 days notice.

But tribunal member Kate Campbell disagreed.

"I find it is an implicit term of any child-care agreement that the child-care provider provide safe and professional care to children," Campbell wrote in a brief ruling.

"Referring to children as a**holes, even outside of their presence, does not meet that standard."

'People ... don't want to make a big fuss'

While the case turned on a word, University of B.C. associate professor of social work Edward Kruk says it speaks volumes about a fundamental fear of many parents.

"People usually don't want to make a big fuss. They've got this little bit of doubt. Is this true? Is this something their kids are making up or exaggerating," he said.

"But more and more, we're hearing from parents who feel their kids are not being treated in any kind of respectful fashion."

Experts on child care say the divide between parents and child-care providers can be fraught with tension. (Yuganov Konstantin/Shutterstock)

Campbell ordered both the parent's and the daycare operator's names to be anonymous to protect the privacy and identity of the children.

According to the ruling, the woman — JW — paid $1,200 a month for her two kids to attend the daycare five days a week.

'She does not deny sending a text'

The contract stated that the parent would have to pay the full fee regardless of the number of days the child was in care. Both child-care provider and parent were also required to give one month's notice, if the arrangement were to end.

But JW argued that the contract "became void, because AP referred to her children as "a**holes" in a text message. JW provided a screen shot of the message.

The Civil Resolution Tribunal handles small claims matters in B.C. A tribunal member decided the daycare operator had breached the terms of a contract by insulting the child. (CBC)

AP denied sending the message and said she didn't believe it was her wording. She also argued that one word shouldn't nullify a contract.

"I note that while AP denies sending the exact text message provided in evidence, she does not deny sending a text in which she called the respondent's children a**holes, Campbell wrote.

"I find that AP did send a text message, referring to the respondent's children in an inappropriate manner."

As a result, Campbell found that AP — not the parent — had breached the contract.

Mary Poppins didn't text

Kruk said he agrees with the idea that the basic contract between parents and child-care providers has to be built on respect for the children involved.

"They do have a duty of care and should be held to account when such concerns are raised."

Kids First Parents Association of Canada president Helen Ward says tensions can be high on both sides of the divide between parent and care provider.

"The emotional relationship between staff and kids in daycare or just the relationships in general are fraught with problems," she said.

"There has to be an attachment. If the child is not attached to the adults looking after them, the kid's going to be acting up, and the adult is going to have a hard time with the child's behaviour."

She says many parents hope for a Mary Poppins or Mother Theresa style figure when placing their kids in the arms of a stranger. But more often than not, real life care providers are just human beings. And sometimes they text.

"If you can find somebody like that," she said. "But a lot of people working in this field are young women in their early twenties who haven't been mothers themselves and may not have that warm caring thing."

About the Author

Jason Proctor

@proctor_jason

Jason Proctor is a reporter in British Columbia for CBC News and has covered the B.C. courts and mental health issues in the justice system extensively.