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‘Horrific flashbacks’: Parents of toddlers who escaped childcare centre pursue legal action

The families of the two children are now investigating a public liability claim against the Werribee West Family Centre, which is operated by Early Childhood Management Services.

The Age revealed last week that the Education Department had taken action against the centre’s operator following the incident.

Childcare centre workers take the children back across the road.

Childcare centre workers take the children back across the road.

Clint, the father of one of the boys, said there was a “sense of happiness and justification” after the department’s investigation into the incident led to charges.

The father of two from Werribee, whose son was two years old at the time of the incident, said he was angry about the way the centre handled the incident.

“You put your trust in these people who do the wrong thing,” he said. “The way they conducted themselves after was really poor we found.”

He said he found it extremely difficult and emotional to watch the footage of his son on the road.

Clint with his son Luka.

Clint with his son Luka.

Neither of his children have returned to the centre.

“I know a few parents have gone elsewhere. We sent our children to another centre nearby, they only go one day a week, instead of the full week. We only send him one day per week because it’s a trust issue for us more than anything.”

Denis Jessop, the father of the other child, said he was disappointed with the centre’s communication about the incident.

“To this day, we still don’t actually know how they got out. Nothing, no apology. Nothing formal,” he said.

Slater and Gordon senior associate Joseph Catoggio said the two families believed that “safety was not a priority for the centre on the day when this occurred”.

A large truck drives past in the minutes after the boys were on the road.

A large truck drives past in the minutes after the boys were on the road.

“The families trusted the centre to care for their sons and keep them safe and secure,” he said.

“Allowing toddlers to run onto a main road with cars hurtling down the road at 70km/h is completely unacceptable and does not reflect the duty of care the centre is entrusted with by parents to ensure their children are kept safe and sound.

“Viewing the video footage has resulted in constant horrific flashbacks of which as parents has been a daily battle to contend with.”

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A spokeswoman for Early Childhood Management Services said as the matter was before the courts they were unable to comment further.

“We remain deeply sorry that this incident occurred and grateful that the children were unharmed. We notified the families as soon as the incident occurred, met with the families as well and offered whatever support we could,” she said.

“We have taken significant steps since the incident to further review and enforce procedures at all our sites to protect the safety and well-being of children in our care.”

An Education Department spokesman said last week it could not confirm what charges were laid due to ongoing legal proceedings.

However, it is understood they relate to alleged breaches of the Education and Care Services National Law Act 2010, which includes penalties for the failure to adequately supervise children and to take reasonable precautions to protect children from harm and hazard.

The penalties for these breaches are $10,000 for an individual and $50,000 for others such as a companies or organisations.

Early Childhood Management Services runs 70 kindergartens and childcare centres across Melbourne.

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