Losing a Child – Lessons to be Learned

Yesterday I posted about our lovely day out at Glenny Woods.  It was a wonderful day but there was an incident that spoiled the day to some extent.

How many parents have felt that moment of panic when you realise that you cannot find one of your children?  It has only happened to me a couple of times,  in shops when they wander off and are lost for all of 30 seconds before being rescued by a friendly shop assistant.  It may only be 30 seconds but it doesn’t help that feeling of panic.

Yesterday my friend and I had 6 children between us.  We went on a treasure hunt with 4 of the children leaving a 7 year old and 5 year old to finish the masks that they were making.  When we returned there was no sign of either of them. 

Initially I wasn’t worried, my 7 year old is very sensible and I assumed that they were either in the toilet or had gone into another field or part of the wood to play. However, we checked all around and there was no sign of them anywhere.  At this point the staff were beginning to pack up and people were starting to leave.  My friend searched around the woodland leaving me to look after the little ones.  Ten minutes later she sent me a message to alert the staff because they still couldn’t be found.  As I was about to do so I spotted them heading towards the toilets.

I expected them to be upset because they hadn’t been able to find us, but instead they came bounding up with big smiles on their faces.  I explained that we had been really worried because we hadn’t known where they were.  It transpired that some of the teenage volunteers had asked them if they wanted to make a den and they had gone a long way out into a far part of the woods to do so.  I asked my daughter why she hadn’t come to find us to tell us she was going.  She said that she had called and thought we had heard her.

After lots of ‘ but I ….’ type defences, I finally got her to listen, explaining calmly that I wasn’t angry with her but I needed to know that she understood what to do next time.  I explained that if ever she was going to go somewhere and I wouldn’t know where she was she needed to find me and tell me where she was going, not just assume I had heard.

So lesson 1 …  make sure your children have clear ground rules on days out, however sensible you think they are.

The teenagers and staff were very apologetic.  The children had told them that their parents had said it was ok.  Lesson 2…  never assume that a child’s word is correct always check with the parents first.  I am quite sure that this incident will encourage the staff to have  guidelines for what to do if you are taking children away from the main area in the future.

When you are in charge of other people’s children it sometimes takes an incident such as this to teach you how important it is to have rigorous procedures in place.  Years ago as an inexperienced playworker, I took a group of children on a trip.  Before we left we took the register and counted all the children.  We then took the children to board the minibus.  When we got to our destination (not far away) we had a message from  the nursery at the family centre we had just left.  The message said that we had left a 6 year old boy behind.  The boy had decided that he didn’t want to go on the trip and hidden as we had boarded the bus.  We were so lucky that the nursery was on site and that they had taken him in.  From that moment on I always counted children on and off the minibus!

These are the lessons to be learned for childcarers, parents and children, simple reminders that hopefully will avoid that feeling of panic happening to you.

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