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17-month-old boy drowns in bath at daycare center

26 Comments

A 17-month-old boy fell into a bathtub with his clothes on and apparently drowned at a daycare center in Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture, police said.

According to police, the incident occurred on Thursday. Fuji TV reported that the 69-year-old woman who runs the center, found the boy, Jo Sakamoto, unconscious in the bathtub at around 8:15 p.m. She called 119 and the boy was rushed to hospital where he died Friday morning. The cause of death was hypoxic encephalopathy due to drowning.

Four children were at the daycare center at the time. The woman was quoted by police as saying she was getting the children ready to take a bath, when Sakamoto apparently wandered into the bathroom by himself.

Police said the privately-run center is a non-registered daycare facility that operates 24 hours a day. It is part of a residence owned by the woman and her husband.

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26 Comments
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It's about time these so called day care centres are properly registered and maintained. Police checks and appropriate training and qualifications for the staff, proper staffing levels including a legal maximum child to staff ratio, proper facilities including an outdoor area, health and safety checks, insurance. That's for starters.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

non-registered daycare facility

Doesn't that make it just a house then? Even with the "registered" places though, they have too many kids per workers. I was skeptical of leaving my 4 1/2 year old at one once. Would never even think about trusting them with my baby.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

It's about time these so called day care centres are properly registered and maintained.

In my early days in Japan, I worked at many of these non-registered places as an English tutor (through a dispatch agency). Not once was I ever asked about my qualifications and experience, and certainly no background/criminal check was ever carried out. In fact, most of them didn't even ask for my surname!

Some of the family-run places were so short-handed (spoilt daughters taking frequent days off to go shopping, etc) that I was often asked to change diapers, or take children to the toilet, unsupervised.

On the other hand, apart from certain poor hygiene practices, I saw no evidence that the children were being ill-treated or neglected. The carers clearly loved their little charges, and were able to build a lot of rapport and trust with the parents because the numbers were so small.

(Why do some parents need to leave their kids in 24-hour facilities?)

3 ( +4 / -1 )

non-registered daycare facility

There's your problem

3 ( +4 / -1 )

(Why do some parents need to leave their kids in 24-hour facilities?)

shift work, single parent I would guess

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Why do some parents need to leave their kids in 24-hour facilities?

Because they work odd hours.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

(Why do some parents need to leave their kids in 24-hour facilities?)

They work shifts. Not everyone works 9 to 5, Monday to Friday. Actually, the child care industry does need properly staffed and managed 24 hour availability.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

I'm not sure if registration would make a huge difference in a tragedy like this. Requiring child barriers to be installed so that children can't climb into a bathtub is one thing, but no amount of regulation is going to make sure that staff are careful enough to keep the barriers closed at all times. As Tessa describes, It seems like there are just too many children and not enough staff.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Fine, but I don't actually know many shift workers in Japan. And the ones that are, don't have kids.

-7 ( +1 / -8 )

Not mentioned in the article is how many employees were on duty at the time - or even if the facility employed others at all. A possibility is that a 69-year old woman was caring alone for four young charges - and had, perhaps, for most of the day, leaving her too exhausted to keep track.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

I'm not sure if registration would make a huge difference in a tragedy like this. Requiring child barriers to be installed so that children can't climb into a bathtub is one thing, but no amount of regulation is going to make sure that staff are careful enough to keep the barriers closed at all times. As Tessa describes, It seems like there are just too many children and not enough staff.

Proper registration means regulation. That means proper staff/child ratios and health and safety is addressed.

Fine, but I don't actually know many shift workers in Japan. And the ones that are, don't have kids.

Really? I know several.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

It seems as though it was only one person watching several children. Its hard for one adult to watch one child. A daycare of any kind should not be allowed to have only one person working. Every year kids drown in bath tubs with barely any water in them, pails in the garage, spillways, koi ponds, stagnant pools of rainwater, etc. A small child needs to be observed like a hawk not just observed. it's exhausting, but that's the way it is.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

As the father of a 2year old toddler, this story cuts me to my core. My son was 17 months not that long ago and I cannot imagine the family's pain. As for the 69 year old woman, I don't have all of the facts, as the article is light on them, but it is very likely that this is a grandmotherly type with a good heart who is probably devastated as well.

Japanese society is changing very quickly and the problem is that the support network is not keeping pace. Why would a parent have a child in a 24 hour childcare facility? Perhaps because the only jobs available are service industry jobs that are 24 hour in nature and require working at night. And also because there has been an explosion in young single parents in Japan.

Why would they have their child in a non-registered childcare facility? Perhaps because registered childcare facilities don't provide 24 hour service. Perhaps because the parent has very limited income and can't afford to pay for a "proper" care facility. Perhaps because there is a waiting list for getting into the proper care facility.

What I do know is that the moment you start regulating and imposing restrictions on these facilities, costs go up and those willing to provide services decreases. And then those that have these needs are without anywhere to turn, absent the government stepping in and providing government-sponsored services. And even then, potentially staffing with staff who really have no compassion for the children in their care.

Conversely, I can well imagine that someone like this 69 year old woman would be the type of woman a young parent would want to babysit their young toddler and they might trust her with their child. And, after all, if you are doing late night child care for a 17 month toddler, it is "just" a matter of feeding them, keeping an eye as they play, giving them a bath and putting them to bed. Something a 69 year old woman should surely be able to handle. And if the price is something that makes it affordable, then it becomes a no brainer.

I understand all of the arguments for regulating these types of businesses and that could well have prevented this type of accident; however, the unintended consequences might be that these type of places go out of business, parents have nowhere to turn for childcare, and then it all blows up on them because they can't work because of not having a childcare facility to facilitate their needs.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

privately-run center is a non-registered daycare facility that operates 24 hours a day

How is this not illegal, and why would anyone take their kids there?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Mirai: "How is this not illegal, and why would anyone take their kids there?"

It's Japan. Shiny on the surface, not so much once you peel off the skin. They make the legitimate ones out to be the greatest things in the world, then make them practically inaccessible unless you're rich and/or connected. Those that can't afford it? they take the kids here because they have absolutely no choice in this economy but to work. Government turns a blind eye. This happens.

If they had more public institutions and tax breaks for parents, and made companies have or help pay for day care, this kind of thing would happen less.

0 ( +2 / -1 )

@ Tessa

"(Why do some parents need to leave their kids in 24-hour facilities?)" "Fine, but I don't actually know many shift workers in Japan. And the ones that are, don't have kids."

Perhaps you move in a very limited circle. Among the people I know who work nights (and many of whom are parents) are: doctors and nurses, factory workers, taxi drivers, convenience store and family restaurant staff, police officers, transportation system employees, snow plow drivers, night guards, truck drivers, people who repair roads and railway tracks, fishers, hotel staff, bar and restaurant employees, newspaper and milk deliverers, newspaper printing plant workers, . Then, although to my knowledge I don't currently personally know any, there are prostitutes and pimps.

Anyone working any of the above jobs or others with different shifts might need such a facility. As might any parent with a health crises, or sudden family situation that would be difficult to deal with with baby in tow.

Also note that being a 24-hour care facility doesn't necessarily mean that the child stays there for 24 hours, but rather that care is being given to whichever children are there around the clock.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

This is but one story that highlights the issues that confront some parents these days and gets at some of the issues that give rise to the demand for these facilities:

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2014-12-08/single-moms-live-in-poverty-as-abenomics-yet-to-ease-gender-gap

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I am always marveled at how some Japanese fail to anticipate danger. My wife is Japanese and she is one of them. We have two young kids: 1 & 2 years of age. Many times she would leave them alone standing in a bath tub full of water! She would do that when I knew that they were too young to get up from the water if they happened to fall in it. And if I told her about the dangers, she would start crying! The other day, I dropped her and the kids at the lift while I parked the car. When I got out of the car, I found the kids right behind the car. Any mistake that would have made the car to reverse, would have been a catastrophe. Sometimes I find them with small toys that they can choke on. I can go on and on with near misses. And once I tell her, her reaction is to cry. I have a gut feeling that something bad will happen someday. I feel sorry for the loss of life at this day care. Some of these tragedies can be prevented by being a little more careful.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

I used daycare for all of my children in Japan as I was working (yes - working - not sitting on my butt eating bon bons as some people like to believe of any mother in Japan) and it was an amazing place. The kids have wonderful memories of their time there and the staff went above and beyond every day. There are some bad daycares, many excellent ones, and ones like this place where I suspect the womans heart was in the right place but she didnt have the safety training and knowledge to know to baby proof the house.

My MIL (similar age) is the same. A long staircase with a steep drop onto concrete and 6 inch gap railings and she wondered why I wouldnt send the kids there when they were toddlers. When my husband told her, she wrapped a bit of string around the rails! Yes, her 4 kids all survived as she pointed out, but you should see the scars on them! This woman was simply a babysitter, not a professional day care provider. And unfortunately not a very good one. Now a child is dead and Im sure she must feel terrible. Very sad all round.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Perhaps you move in a very limited circle.

Well, I won't argue with you there. But I live in a largely homogenous country in the third largest economy in the world, in a society that claims to be 90% middle-class, with exclusive rights to things called "heiwa" and "kizuna." So naturally I'm puzzled when when people here have to resort to unregistered facilities for childcare.

I used daycare for all of my children in Japan as I was working (yes - working - not sitting on my butt eating bon bons as some people like to believe of any mother in Japan) and it was an amazing place.

I agree. I especially loved the emphasis on craft activities; the staff - even at the non-registered places - were absolutely fantastic at those! And I also loved the daily written reports that every parent got regarding the progress of their children. I learned so much from those places.

And I highly doubt than anybody would accuse you of being a bon-bon muncher.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

My mother used this exact type of unregistered facilities when I was growing up. Because she often got off work at 2200 or went in to work before 0800 as a retail store manager. Yes, they were glorified babysitters with regular houses and usually kids of their own too. All she could do was get references and check their houses before deciding. As a single mom it was what she could afford and what she needed, people who could watch me off hours. You have to do what you can and make do if you have to work and you have no family member to watch the kids. This is a tragedy! And kids die at home in tubs all the time. Japanese older style tubs like mine which is set way down to near the floor seem so dangerous to me. May this poor angel rest in peace!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

BTW where does all of the money go that people pay to send their children to these day private care centers? I am curious...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Kalumekenge-

You know it's not because your wife is Japanese, those types of people who can't/don't use imagination to foresee danger are out there in many countries. That being said, she really needs to be educated on child safety. She can cry all day long and that should not stop you from educating her on how one mistake can lead to a tragedy. She might say it's usually okay but if one in million times that things go bad, then your kids are in danger. Keep educating her whether she cries or not, tell her she'd be crying the rest of her entire life if something happens to the children. By the way, I have children as well and I know what I'm talking about (and I have seen the type of parents like your wife).

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Poor baby, RIP little boy :(

1 ( +1 / -0 )

"And once I tell her, her reaction is to cry."

Children cry when they are told off. But I wouldn't leave a child in charge of children.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

RIP little guy. Lots of devastated people left behind.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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