Discrimination in Daycare Due to Allergies
By Krista Wiebe, Winnipeg, Manitoba
Our son is allergic to milk and peanuts. He is three years old. In September of 2006 he was excluded (read: kicked out!) from a daycare facility in Winnipeg, Manitoba because of his allergies. We were devastated and disappointed by this blatant discrimination. We asked how a daycare provider could discriminate against our son because of his medical condition.
Our son was scheduled to move from the daycare’s “infant” room to the “toddler” room. This meant a higher child to staff ratio (4:1 in the infant room and 8:1 in the toddler room). As a result of this change and our son’s allergies, the daycare asked us to observe mealtime in the toddler room. They also asked us to make recommendations on how mealtime could be made safer for our son. This sounded great and we were more than happy to work with the daycare to ensure the safety of our son.
When we observed mealtime, we were alarmed at the disregard for the daycare’s existing anaphylaxis policy. One of the most concerning observations we made was the failure by staff to have children wash their hands and faces after mealtime. We observed one child leave the table with milk on his hands and face. His shirt was also soaked with milk. As a result of our observations, we made several recommendations to the daycare.
After we submitted our recommendations, we asked the daycare to respond. We never received a response. We also asked the Board of Directors of the daycare to respond. They never responded to our recommendations either.
A few months later, after our son was moved into the toddler room, we received an unsigned, registered letter from the daycare. This letter was delivered to our home unexpectedly on a day our son was attending the daycare facility. The letter advised us we were required to find alternate care for our son within three weeks because of his allergies. The Board of Directors had advised us they were going to have a Board meeting to discuss our son and we specifically asked to be in attendance at any meeting that was convened to discuss our son! However, they had a “special Board meeting”, to which we were not invited, and determined that it was too stressful for staff and inconvenient for other children in the daycare to have our son attend the facility.
If you have ever tried to find a quality daycare space for your child in Manitoba (or other provinces with a child care crisis), you could understand how problematic this situation was. Quality daycare spaces are difficult to find. In Manitoba, prospective parents have been told to “get their ovaries on a daycare waiting list.”
To complicate things further, not only did we need to find a quality daycare spot for our son, our daughter was scheduled to attend the same daycare facility starting in January 2007. We were not comfortable putting her in a facility that discriminated against her brother because of his allergies. We were concerned she would develop allergies too (we have a strong family history) and also be kicked out!
We put our children on several waiting lists throughout Winnipeg. Frustrated with the inability to secure quality daycare spaces for our children, we chose to hire a nanny through the federal government’s live in caregiver program. This is more costly than daycare, however, was the only suitable alternative for our family.
What about the daycare you ask? We have since filed a complaint with the Manitoba Human Rights Commission. The complaint is now in the process of being investigated by the Commission.
It is against the Manitoba Human Rights Code to discriminate against anyone, including children, due to a medical condition, like allergies and anaphylaxis. If you think your child has been discriminated by a school, daycare, community club, or essentially by any service provider, due to his or her allergies, you should file a complaint on your child’s behalf with your provincial and/or federal Human Rights Commission.
We are our children’s advocates. It is of particular importance that we strongly advocate for our children who have allergies and anaphylaxis. These children must not be treated in a discriminatory manner because they have a “hidden” medical condition that is no fault of their own. If your child is a victim of discrimination I urge you to make a complaint. When complaints are filed and Human Rights decisions are made it helps protect all children with allergies and anaphylaxis.
When we receive a decision from the Manitoba Human Rights Commission regarding our complaint, we will share it with you all in the future.