Parksville Family Places updates safety policy

Mother says child escaped through open door

Family Place in Parksville says they have reviewed and enhanced their safety plan after an incident a few weeks ago.

Val Wilson, manager of communications at Vancouver Island Health Authority, told The NEWS that while there was a child recently who managed to make it to the door of the building, the child never made it to the parking lot.

“The door was open and a child headed towards the door, but the child was noticed by the mom and, in fact, the child basically just stepped outside the door — didn’t even get past the sidewalk — and was caught,” Wilson said.

Wilson said the safety of clients while in Family Place’s care is “paramount” and a top priority of Island Health.

“We acknowledge that this mother is extremely concerned that her child was able to exit an open door while attending one of our programs,” Wilson said. “We take her concerns extremely seriously and we have apologized to her. Fortunately, the child’s mother saw her child at the open door and was able to retrieve the child just outside the doorway of the building.”

However, after the incident, Wilson said it is required that the door to the room be closed at all times.

“A child safety gate is also now required to be placed in front of the door as an additional step to mitigate a similar incident from happening in the future,” Wilson said.

The mother of the 16-month-old child who allegedly got outside told The NEWS more needs to be done.

Lacey Kapusta of Qualicum Beach said she has been going to family groups at the Parksville Family Place for five years now.

She said parents will show up with their children and discuss a topic for an hour while two babysitters watch the children.

On July 20, Kapusta said she looked out the window and noticed her 16-month-old daughter out in the parking lot alone. She said she wasn’t given an apology and was told the child must have “scooted past.”

Kapusta said she filed a complaint with the RCMP.

Wilson confirmed Family Place — which is operated by VIHA, the Ministry of Child and Family Development and School District 69 (Qualicum) — did speak with the RCMP.

“They’re aware of our updated safety plan and now, what we’ve done, we’ve asked that the door always be shut and when somebody comes they’ll have to ring the doorbell,” said Wilson, adding the RCMP seemed satisfied.

Wilson said workers at Family Place have met with the child minders and have gone over all safety procedures that “must be in place and followed while providing services.”

Wilson also said they’ve met with other participants of the program to go over the enhanced safety plan and gather feedback, adding the majority of participants are satisfied with the enhanced safety plan.

Kapusta said on July 27, she attended the toddler group and was told of the new safety precautions being implemented. Kapusta also posted on her Facebook page on July 21 about the incident.

— NEWS Staff