Childcare centre Maple Bear apologises after misunderstanding involving elderly man and 4-year-old girl

Chief executive Patricia Koh said that all Maple Bear schools have pledged to create a safe, secure and stimulating environment for all young children.
Chief executive Patricia Koh said that all Maple Bear schools have pledged to create a safe, secure and stimulating environment for all young children.PHOTO: FACEBOOK/ MAPLEBEAR HAVELOCK

SINGAPORE - Childcare centre Maple Bear on Thursday (Dec 20) said it has very clear standard operating procedures for dismissal times involving children under its care, after a misunderstanding occurred when an elderly man tried to pick up a four-year-old girl at the centre.

In a statement posted on Maple Bear's Facebook page on Thursday, chief executive Patricia Koh said that all Maple Bear schools have pledged to create a safe, secure and stimulating environment for all young children.

"It always takes something like this to keep us on our toes and to remind ourselves to be vigilant and not to take things for granted," Mrs Koh said.

She also apologised for any alarm or concern caused by the incident.

This comes after a Facebook post on Tiong Bahru Village, a community page, on Tuesday said that an elderly man had tried to pick up a four-year-old girl from the childcare centre in Havelock Road.

The post said that the girl did not recognise the man and began crying, and her parents later made a police report.

However, Tiong Bahru Village posted an update on Wednesday afternoon clarifying that the incident had been a "misunderstanding with no malicious intent".

The Straits Times understands that a miscommunication had occurred when the elderly man tried to pick up his grandchild, who also attends the Maple Bear childcare centre in Havelock Road.

However, his grandchild had already been picked up by the family's maid.

 

In addition, the elderly man's English was not clear and the staff at the childcare centre thought that he was there to pick up another child instead.

Speaking to The Straits Times on Friday, Mrs Koh said that the centre has a child management system, which requires parents or guardians to sign their child in on an iPad by giving his or her name, class and a password.

The system will then notify all authorised caregivers on their mobile phones that the child has arrived at the centre. This process takes place at the centre entrance.

A similar process has to be completed before the child is allowed to leave the centre during dismissal time. 

Parents would also have to first register an authorised person with his or her name, IC number and a photo.

The Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) told ST that they are aware of the case and are looking into the incident. 

"The safety and well-being of children are of utmost importance to ECDA," a spokesman said. 

The agency added that all centres are required to have standard operating procedures in place to ensure that children are dismissed to authorised persons, and centres must ensure that all staff members are familiar with and adhere to the procedures.

Regulatory action may be taken in the event of safety lapses, ECDA said.

Mrs Koh said on Thursday that the centre had clarified with both children's parents about the case and they had confirmed that it was a huge misunderstanding. She added that there was no further cause for alarm.

Tiong Bahru Village has since updated its Facebook post and removed a photo it had shared of the elderly man.

"It is heartening to see our community spirit came out so strongly, and our shared concern for our children's welfare and safety," the post said.