[This article was originally written in BM by our friends at Soscili.my. Click here to read it.]
Do you remember, in early July 2018, when the life of an innocent baby named Adam Rayqal was snatched so early at his babysitter’s house in Kampung Nakhoda, Batu Caves? Before this, his babysitter, who is also the accused, said that Adam was kidnapped by a man who disguised himself as his father.
The police, who doubted that statement, ended up raiding the babysitter’s house where they then found Adam’s body. The most heartbreaking part is that Adam was found inside a green zipper bag, which his mom used to give Adam’s belongings to the babysitter, in the freezer. :'(
This case has garnered lots of attention from society, among other cases. Some sympathised with the baby and his family while others blamed his parents for sending him to an unregistered babysitter. The media has even been criticised by netizens for not respecting his parents’ privacy while they were mourning their son’s death.
But still, one of the comments on social media questioned was why parents can’t take care of their own kids. They even accused parents of prioritising their work over their kids.
So… why do parents choose babysitters over registered childcare centres?
Registered babysitters are a luxury to many Malaysian parents
Not every family can afford the living costs with just one breadwinner because these expenses are rising. Data from the Department of Statistics Malaysia about median salaries and wages earned by Malaysians in 2017 prove that the lower-income families struggle to depend on one breadwinner, especially with a median salary of RM1,100 to RM2,055.
The main reason parents send their kids to childcare centres is because of the trade-off between taking time away from work to take care of the kids and working longer to get enough income. Parents also send kids to unregistered babysitters because of the perception that babysitters are experienced (more on this later).
In 2014, The Malay Mail found some prices for childcare centres and babysitters in several places providing different sets of services:
- Childcare centres charge RM380-2,200 monthly .
- Babysitters charge RM20 hourly, to RM750 monthly.
It would also depend on where you are. A centre in Shah Alam charges RM380 monthly while a centre in Ara Damansara charges RM2,200 monthly. Centres in Ampang, Bangsar and Petaling Jaya charge RM500-850 monthly.
Centres impose additional fees like a one-off payment of annual fees and deposits while private babysitters are more flexible with their requirements. Centre fees cover physical care and educational activities while babysitters only provide physical care. But some centres charge more for what a childminder at a registered nursery calls “modern methods” like extracurricular activities.
A survey in 2016 by Free Malaysia Today (FMT) found that centres in the Klang Valley charge on average RM1,000, depending on the kid’s age.
“For children aged between three to 16 months, we charge RM1,350, while it costs RM1,200 to take care of children between 18 months and three years. For those aged four and above, we charge RM1,000 for a full day’s care, while half a day costs RM650,” – said nursery childminder ‘Mei‘, taken from FMT.
Sometimes, parents have to bring their kids’ own belongings like milk and diapers. In other cases, some even have to bring their own food!
So, not all can afford the registered childcare services! And even if they could afford it, not all of them can find one with flexible hours. For example, they usually provide weekday care from 8am to 6pm. Weekend care depends on availability and incurs extra charges, which are RM10-50 hourly.
That’s just for one child. Can you imagine if got 2 or 3 children?! But before we start pointing fingers at the childminders, it’s important to know that…
It’s actually SUPER mafan to get a childcare centre registered
It’s not easy to open a childcare centre mainly due to the bureaucracy involved in license applications. A childcare centre has to be registered with the Social Welfare Department (JKM) under the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development (MWFCD), which is responsible for approving and establishing childcare centres in Malaysia.
Following it are the screening and enforcement on the centre, various fees to be paid, procedures and attendance to the relevant courses (including a compulsory 10-day childcare basics course) to ensure the safety of the kids. There are also more conditions involving other parties such as local authorities, the Fire and Rescue Department, the Health Department and only for Sarawak, the Land and Surveying Department.
Because of these tedious procedures, many babysitters and childcare centres take the easy way out – not bothering with registration at all. BUT this is not a matter to be taken lightly, especially for those who are less experienced in dealing with children, let alone babies which is definitely not easy. Because of the lack of experience…
Most abuse cases involve unregistered and inexperienced caretakers
There are A LOT of unregistered childcare centres according to previous media reports, with a total of 1,685 since 2014! JKM stats stated that from June 2015 to June 2017, there were 581 cases of child abuse by babysitters! The figures could have been higher since unreported occurrences are not included.
President of the Association of Registered Childcare Providers Malaysia (PPBM, not the Pribumi one) Shamsinah Che Shariff said that unlicensed centres and unskilled babysitters are among the factors of baby deaths in childcare centres. The Minister of WFCD Datuk Seri Rohani Abdul Karim said most cases involved babysitters who didn’t attend the compulsory course.
“One of the reasons for the operation of child care centres without a registration certificate is difficulties faced by the operators to comply with the standard operating procedures (SOP) set by the ministry, especially on security features,” – Rohani told NST.
In the first half of 2018, there were 7 child abuse cases that have gained so much media attention before Adam Rayqal and Naufal Amsyar. Just like Adam, Naufal died under his babysitter’s care. Post-mortem results revealed that he died from a brain haemorrhage and also suffered a skull fracture after he fell from a cradle at his babysitter’s house.
However, not all babysitters are negligent and cruel like the ones in the spotlight. A few years ago, The Star wrote about good babysitters who, thanks to their experience in raising their own children, are very reliable and genuinely caring. They maintain a clean, conducive environment and hold fun activities for the children. They’ve also grown so close to the children and parents that they “end up like family“. It’s babysitters like them who become saviours for parents who can’t send their kids to a centre.
BUT! This isn’t to say that registered childcare centres are flawless.
Some are guilty of abusing kids under their care. In fact, as of last June, about 80% of childminders in JKM-registered nurseries still do not meet the minimum qualification of the PERMATA Early Childhood Care and Education course. In 2014, there were reports of sexual and physical abuse against children in a Taman Abad registered kindergarten. Then, earlier this week, a video of two teachers abusing children in an Ayer Keroh registered kindergarten went viral.
So abuse can happen under anyone‘s supervision, whether they’re registered or not. How would the govt handle these abuse cases such that it doesn’t become a contagion in our society?
Govt initiatives are needed to help working parents
In efforts to curb this incident from happening again, it seems the govt is starting to take steps to help the working parents. Among the initial recommendations were from the Selangor Menteri Besar, who said that the aspects of licensing and registration for childcare centres need to be reviewed for the safety of their kids.
The Ministry of Health plans to set up a childcare centre in every hospital for children aged 6 years and below. It’s also said that it will operate for 24 hours a day to cater to the needs of many public servants in hospitals and several govt agencies, particularly those who work by shifts.
Even Hannah Yeoh, Deputy Minister of MWFCD has a say in this. The MWFCD has started urging all govt agencies to establish their respective childcare centres from 1st January 2019 onwards. A few companies such as TNB, Sime Darby, Prasarana and AirAsia have already set up their own.
Recently, the Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, said that we need “more qualified childcare workers and registered childcare centres in the country”. She said the lack of qualified childcare workers contributed to the lack of registered childcare centres.
“We are looking at the need to improve on the Child Care Centre Act and regulations on childcare centres to fit the current needs and situation,” – Wan Azizah added.
But are all these initiatives good enough to prevent such incidents from repeating? It seems like more still needs to be done to protect innocent lives. Despite wanting the best for their kids, not every parent has a choice due to their circumstances of earning low-income on top of other family commitments. So, all they can do is send their kid to a babysitter and hope that their kid is in safe hands.
Luckily, apps such as KiddoCare and Toddlytic are developed to help parents with finding a caretaker and monitoring their children’s progress. And some companies are helping their employees achieve work-life balance. PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) Malaysia has a flexible working hours programme that helps its employees arrange their working hours according to their needs.
But it may not be enough, seeing that Datin PH Wong of Childline Malaysia has urged for a review of the policies and strategies for the childcare industry, including JKM registration, subsidies for unregistered babysitters to attend the course and child protection protocols.
As mentioned earlier, children may end up getting abused by anyone, even in a registered centre. So, there are calls for mandatory background checks (including psychological check-ups) before hiring a childminder to avoid repeating such incidents. Especially when it involves the lives of children who have so much ahead of them.