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Creche in West Flanders shut down urgently amid abuse claims

09:25 16/11/2022

A creche in West Flanders has been shut down by the region's government after numerous reports of severe child abuse were made by both parents and by staff members.

A report by the Flemish care inspectorate obtained by VTM included testimony that children at 'T Engeltje in Oudenaarde were frequently beaten. It also said that toddlers had their faces held under cold water until they stopped crying, or had their faces shoved into food.

Toddlers caught playing in the toilet were then pushed headfirst into it, after which the toilet was flushed, the report claims.

In another reported incident, a two-year-old was locked in the kitchen for “crying too much”. In yet another, a child who did not wish to eat had their head placed between the knees of a caregiver in order to be force-fed.

The manager of the childcare centre said in a statement: "It is indeed true that sometimes we stand behind the children to help them eat. That they put their head back while doing so is possible, and sometimes their head gets between our legs. But not between the knees.”

The report largely attributes the abuse to the "pedagogical incapacity" of the centre’s management.

One parent who spoke to Het Laatste Nieuws said that the manager had "favourite" children, who were treated better, “but the others were heavily targeted. Children who cried too much stayed in bed all day.”

Celia Groothedde (Groen) said this case, which is only the latest in a series of creche abuse scandals that have brought the complaint investigation process into question, must be thoroughly examined.

“Were there already suspicions of problems or risks in the childcare initiatives in question, and could they have been dealt with more quickly?” Groothedde asked.

“Was the precautionary principle applied here quickly enough? These are crucial questions that Flemish minister Hilde Crevits needs to clarify in parliament.”

Written by The Bulletin