Following up on the case of the unfortunate death of baby Adam Rayqal and what parents are saying about it, some child care professionals have given their opinions on the matter. Many agree that child care laws and regulations in Malaysia are already adequate, but what is lacking is proper administration and execution. In an exclusive interview with Norsheila Abdullah, President of the Association of Registered Childcare Providers Malaysia (ARCPM) or Persatuan Pengasuh Berdaftar Malaysia (PPBM), we discussed the roles of parents, care givers and government agencies in this matter.
Change of Attitude Is Needed
Speaking to Norsheila via telephone interview, the first thing she highlights is the need to change our attitudes. “It all goes back to attitude, as well as about money,” she says.
“Every time something like this happens, people call for stricter laws with regards to child care service providers,” says Norsheila. “The law is already in place. It’s how we implement it is the issue now,” she points out, continuing, “Many care givers are already complying with child care laws and regulations in Malaysia. It is the bad apples that are painting a bad picture of the industry.”
Norsheila says that as a society, we want to encourage women to go to work. With the advent in times, we also encourage women to work from home these days. Thus, some women have taken to offering child care services at their own homes. However, this is where we need a shift in attitude, she says.
This change in attitude is not just among the babysitter, but also in parents, society and the governing agencies. As she puts is, “You cannot blame the whole industry. To raise a child, you need all of society to come in.”
Even Home-Based Child Care Providers Should Be Certified
Not many people know this, but home-based child care providers are actually required to undergo training, receive certification and be registered with the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development of Malaysia. This holds them accountable just like any day care centre.
“It is required by law for babysitters to attend a basic child care course before offering their services,” says Norsheila, who wants this law to be reinforced. To get this certification costs about RM900. This may seem a bit pricey, but Norsheila says that it is the duty of these babysitters to uplift their profession. The individual herself should treat the service she provides like a professional, says Norsheila. “You should have the initiative to register yourself.” She points out that babysitters should be willing to do this if they are serious about earning an income by taking care of other people’s children.
“If you want to drive a car, you still need a license,” she cites. “So why compromise on child care?”
Norsheila also suggests that child care service proprietors themselves should take the initiative to send their staff for training. This will ensure that they can do their job well.
Attitude of Parents
Parents are not off-the-hook when it comes to looking for babysitters or child care providers, no matter how difficult it can be to find one, according to Norsheila. Of course, she says that no one should blame the parents in the case of Adam Rayqal. However, in future, it would be better for parents to make sure that they are sending their children to reputable child care providers complying with child care laws and regulations in Malaysia. Norsheila cites an example:
“It’s like if you were to send your child to be cared for by your neighbour that you know very well. You would be glad to send your child if your neighbour is motherly and caring. However, what if she shouts at her kids day and night and seems to have a bad temper? Would you trust her with your child?”
Parents hold the power to change the situation in Malaysia when it comes to child care services, says Norsheila. Given that they are entrusting the lives of their little ones in the hands of someone else, there should be no compromise. “Childhood happens just once,” she says. “Parents simply need to be more selective when choosing care givers.”
Babysitters As Role Models
Many of us have friends who employ maids from other countries such as Indonesia and the Philippines, and notice how sometimes their children seem to speak their language or speak in their accent. This is usually because children spend more time with their care givers during the day, especially during their growing-up stages. They pick up on their care givers’ language, habits and actions and sometimes follow them. This is why Norsheila says that the babysitters you choose must be good role models to your children.
“The day care venue is the environment where your baby is growing up in,” she points out. “This is where parents can be partners in the rearing up of their child.” Says Norsheila, while parents may not be able to be physically there to raise their children during working hours, they play a role in looking at indicators to decide whether a day care centre is suitable for their child. Of course, the easiest to check is certification and accreditation.
“Care givers are not taking care of inanimate objects. They are directly involved in your child’s development,” Norsheila reminds us. “If you think that doctors and cleaners are important, then child care service providers are just as important.” This drives home the case for baby sitters to have accreditation according to the child care laws and regulations in Malaysia.
The Authorities Play A Role, Too
In a comment on Facebook, child rights and protection advocate Yasmin Abdul Majid laments that there isn’t enough monitoring on the government side. Licensing is also difficult to get as it involves four different agencies and may take up to three years before getting approval. Yasmin also raised the issue that there are no dedicated officers to check on day care centres and nurseries. In addition, the cost to do everything the correct way is also prohibitive, even causing child care centres to close down because it is not sustainable.
Financial concerns is also one of the issues raised by Norsheila. As stakeholders, the government needs to play a bigger role in solving the problem. Providing subsidies will encourage babysitters to register themselves. Likewise, if the government can allocate subsidies or incentives to child care workers, nursery proprietors will be able to keep the monthly fees low. At the same time, the morale of their staffs are boosted and they will perform their jobs better. Norsheila also suggests the governing agencies working with corporations to give subsidies to the parents as further incentive. “This could be in the form of baby essentials such as diapers and formula to offset the cost of monthly fees,” says Norsheila. She is throwing out ideas, but knows that things need to change to ensure better governance of the industry. “We must find a mechanism to make it all work out,” says Norsheila.