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On Friday Dec 17, 2010, I found myself living out every mother’s worst nightmare.  After a long and stressful day of work, I went to pick up my 7-year old son from daycare and he was nowhere to be found. It was more than 15 minutes of frantic searching for my baby before the daycare center checked their attendance book.  What did the records show? He was absent.  As my panic rose the first thing out of my mouth was “What do you mean he’s absent?  I’m here to pick him up; he is not supposed to be absent!” As soon as they told me he had never even taken the bus, I left. I would do whatever it took to find him. It was all I could do to keep myself together enough to look for him as endless thoughts rushed through my head.  His teacher was supposed to walk him to the bus, how was he’s not on it?? Maybe the teacher was running late, why was he just left behind by the daycare bus??? Why did the daycare never call me to verify that he had already been picked up? You can call it luck, or maybe a miracle that as the panic and worry continued to set it, I found him alone, crying and walking up and down the main road.  He wandered for four hours – my 7-year old son, with no supervision. What’s worse?  God only knows how many dangers he could have been exposed to alone on a main road!  I never received any calls from the daycare saying he was absent or any calls from the school confirming that yes, he had indeed been picked up.  What happened?  I still don’t know… 4 hours unaccounted for???  I can’t help but wonder if the Public School System is safe enough when they dismiss our children to the buses. Is it really worth paying so much money for a daycare that can’t seem to provide reliable security for our children? As a full time working mom, I still depend on this daycare… I want to share my story because I see that child safety should be a #1 concern, and I need all parents to see that too.  There should never be any assumptions as to where a child is…It was a wakeup call for me as a mom and I hope it is also a wakeup call for the school system, the daycare and for anyone who works with children.  Isn’t it time for the system to revise its rules, regulations, and safety protocols? Because if it doesn’t, the next time a child slips through the cracks, a mom might not find herself so lucky…

MariaV.                                                                

Gainesville , Fl

 

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Comment by Coral Bristow on January 14, 2011 at 12:16am
I can not even believe that this happened! My heart dropped just reading this, I can not even imagine the way you felt... and your poor son! He must have been terrified! I would have to say that I'd find another daycare if I was you, they absolutely should have let you know that he never showed up. And for a school to not make sure a 7 year old child is put on the proper bus. I would have hit the roof!! I am so happy that you found him safely. Thanks for sharing. I still have 2 years before my oldest starts kindergarten and I have to worry about something like this but I will never forget this story.
Comment by Christine Gregory on January 7, 2011 at 10:03pm
At the school where I teach we have procedures to prevent this from happening. Each daycare that picks up at our school has a list of students to be picked up. If a child does not get on the daycare bus, they have to check with the office to see where that child is - absent, picked up early, etc. They are not allowed to leave until we account for that child. We have school personnel at each gate so a child can't just walk out. Parents who are picking up children have a special card in their windows so we know they are the parent. If they don't have that they have to go to the office where their identity is verified. Sometimes parents get mad about following these strict procedures but every staff member knows - no exceptions. The safety of the children is the only priority for us.
Comment by Kamil on January 7, 2011 at 12:04am

Wow.  I'm glad that your little guy is OK.  Are your daycare and school taking NEW measures to ensure this never happens again to anyone?  This situation, in my opinion, needs to be addressed in the school and daycare in a faculty/staff meeting.  4 hours?!!!!!  Implementing changes, retraining the staff definitely needed to be #1 on somebody's priority list at the school and daycare. 

 

And though schools definitely need to have fire exits and plans, there needs to be a way to make sure that there is just one official entry/exit.  In other words, that no one can skip the office sign-in and walk in undisturbed through some other way.

Comment by Jacquie Mulholland on January 6, 2011 at 10:05am
I would simply call this a miracle...  We have just moved here and I believe it was my son's first or second week of school and they did not put him on the bus..  I stood out waiting for him to get off the bus when the bus driver informed me that he never got on the bus...  The school did not call me until 40 minutes after school let out that he was at school.. I went to pick him up and he was alone in the office..  I was about to walk out with him before anyone noticed that I was there.. I could have been anyone walking out with this child.. I agree that the system seems to be failing not only us but the most precious part of our society-- out beloved children...
Comment by Alexandra Valentone on January 6, 2011 at 9:48am
That is horrible! I can only imagine what you and your little one must of gone through! I am so glad he is safe and okay. Thank you for posting this story.
Comment by Stacy Fournier on January 5, 2011 at 10:41am
Wow! Thank you for taking the time to post about this experience! I am so glad your little guy is OK.
Comment by Kristin Foster on January 5, 2011 at 5:34am
Oh my gosh.  I would have called TV20.  Four hours???  In December.  Thank God no pervert found him.

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GainesvilleMoms.com moderator Stacy Fournier is a Gator grad and freelance journalist. But she does her most important work at home as a wife and mommy to daughters Aubrey, born March 2006, and Riley, born June 2010. Read more about GainesvilleMoms.com or contact Stacy at gainesvillemoms@gainesville.com.

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