GTA mother has warning for parents after daycare workers charged with assaulting her son
BrightPath says it fired employees, reviewed policies and trained existing staff
A mother of two in Milton, Ont. wants other parents to trust their instincts when it comes to who is taking care of their children. She had a feeling something was wrong at her son's daycare last year and pulled him out just four months after he started.
A few weeks later, she was informed her toddler was allegedly assaulted by two former staff members at the centre on Maple Avenue, one of two locations owned by BrightPath Early Learning Centre and Child Care in Milton, northwest of Toronto. She says she watched videos at a police station of her son, who was nearly two years old at the time, being kicked, struck, kneed and dragged at the daycare, called BrightPath Maple.
"I remember how my son was crying. … It's always in my head," she told CBC Toronto. "I was having some nightmares. I cried a lot. I wanted to stay in bed."
CBC News is not naming the mother to protect the identity of her son because he is an underage victim of an alleged crime.
The two former employees have been charged with assault after an investigation by the Halton Regional Police Service. A 51-year-old woman is facing five counts of assault and a 22-year-old woman is facing six counts. Both had their first court appearance last week.
The mother says her son's behaviour changed after he was enrolled at BrightPath.
"I come home, I hug my son, I kiss him, I tell him, 'I'm sorry you had to go through this,'" she said.
BrightPath Kids says it fired the employees and is supporting investigations by the Children's Aid Society's (CAS) and Halton police.
"Mistreatment or unkind behaviour towards children is completely unacceptable and will never be tolerated at any of our centres," the company said in a statement.
"What we have learned goes completely against the values of our dedicated and caring staff who have been let down by the actions of these individuals."
'I felt that something wrong was happening'
When the family moved to Milton in the summer of 2020, BrightPath Maple was the only daycare with spaces available, the mother says. The company has 17 locations in Ontario and another 14 in Alberta and British Columbia, according to its website.
The mother says she didn't hesitate enrolling her son — she has family members that go to BrightPath in another city and thought of it as a reputable company.
"[They] have a good reputation and it's a big name that everybody knows," she said.
WATCH | Mother speaks after her son's former daycare workers were charged:
When her son first attended BrightPath Maple at the end of August 2020, his mother says she was happy with the daycare but eventually started feeling concerned.
Her son often came home wet from playing with water or snow and staff didn't put him in his extra change of dry clothes. In one instance, he swallowed small craft supplies, she says. She pulled him from BrightPath on Jan. 12, 2021.
"I felt that something wrong was happening," she said. "My son doesn't seem happy. I'm not happy."
BrightPath didn't answer questions about those concerns. But at the beginning of February, the mother says she received a call from a manager at BrightPath, who explained they had identified concerning behaviour by staff after reviewing internal video to ensure employees were following the curriculum.
BrightPath says it became aware of an incident on Feb. 3. A letter to parents dated Feb. 18 says the daycare showed CAS "several incidents on video" and that Halton police were also investigating.
"CAS is working in conjunction with Halton Region Police Service (HRPS) who advised that they are satisfied with the steps taken, and measures implemented, by BrightPath," the letter states.
By this time, the mother had already pulled her son from BrightPath. She said he had been acting differently while attending the daycare: waking up crying at night, being extra clingy and only wanting to sleep on her chest.
After learning of the alleged assaults, the unusual behaviour started making sense to her and her husband.
"That explains what he was going through," she said.
Videos show kicking, hitting, dragging, mother says
The mother says Halton police asked her in September to view seven to 10 videos from the daycare, taken in January 2021, to identify her son. The two former employees were arrested and charged on Sept. 29, according to Halton police.
CBC News has not seen the videos but the mother says she saw her son being hit on the hand, kicked, kneed, pushed and dragged by his arm and hair.
"The first video I watched, I just burst into tears," she said. "Poor child, he wasn't doing anything," she added as she cried. "I saw the way he was crying; there was so much hurt."
She described one video in which her son is seated and playing with toys.
She says when a staff member went to get a book to read to the children, her son was in the way, and she kicked him three times, then dragged him by the hair and placed him where he was supposed to sit. She says the worker then continued on as if nothing happened and did a little dance in front of the children.
In another incident, she says she watched a staff member cover her son's body and head with a blanket during nap time and put her leg on his body to secure him because he was moving around.
"I could have lost him," she said. "He's a baby, he's small."
She said other children were also allegedly assaulted. But BrightPath and Halton police wouldn't confirm how many children were involved.
Policies 'robust and clear,' BrightPath says
In an emailed statement, BrightPath says on Feb. 3, 2021, it became aware a child at the Maple location "had been guided to follow instructions in a manner we consider to be forceful, and in violation of our policies and acceptable practices."
The daycare said upon further investigation, management learned other children were also treated "inappropriately."
"The staff members directly and indirectly involved were immediately removed from the premises and Children's Aid Society (CAS) was notified. The staff were subsequently dismissed," the statement reads.
BrightPath says it communicated directly with the parents of all the children involved to explain what happened and maintain open communication.
The care of children is it highest priority and any situation that compromises that is treated with "utmost seriousness," BrightPath states.
"We are vigilant regarding procedures to provide a safe environment for our children, families, and staff. We have robust and clear policies regarding the treatment of children, as well as training and support, and access for the reporting of unacceptable behaviour or the suspicion thereof."
BrightPath says it carried out a full review of its policies and other measures, including staff training, to ensure a similar situation doesn't occur again.
'I'm happy I listened to my gut'
She's since taken her son to a children's treatment centre to be monitored for any behavioural changes, and says he is happy and safe at a different daycare. She commends the work of early childhood educators and says the majority of them are caring and kind, including at BrightPath Maple.
But she wants other parents to pay close attention to their children's behaviour.
"Try to get close and see how a daycare is and how the people working there are taking care of your children ...If you feel this is not safe, don't hesitate," she said.
"I'm happy I listened to my gut."