Daycare: where diagnosis doesn’t equal “health, safety and dignity” for children with mental illness

I sat there on the floor in the corner of the classroom, one arm around an 8 year old student of mine, and the other holding a book about sharks from which I read calmly. My arm served as a restraint, and that book was to calm the boy down after one of his violent episodes. This time he’d just beaten a young girl over the head — so badly Fraser Heath had to be notified. Why, you ask? Because this boy, like a shockingly large number of children enrolled in the low-income British Columbia daycare I worked for, suffered from severe mental illness.

Through experiences working closely with children with mental illness, such as the boy with oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) just described, I’ve had the opportunity to observe some of the grievous issues in legislation surrounding their care after initial diagnosis.

In a before-and-after-school care program of two adult supervisors and 24 kids aged 5–12, there were four children with diagnoses for mental illness ranging from ODD to ADHD and autism to intellectual impairment. None of these children were granted any additional support staff or consideration through the day care establishment or provincial legislation. It was presumed to be the job of my one coworker and I to provide one-on-one care to them while still attending to the other children just as normal. Though we both did our absolute best, it is my belief that this feat was not achievable to the extent desired with the resources that were available to us.

According to Fraser Health’s Community Care and Assisted Living Act (2013), the licensing organization for daycare and before and after school care in British Columbia, “a licensee must operate the community care facility in a manner that will promote the health, safety and dignity of persons in care”. They do not however, provide licensing requirements for caring for children with an official diagnosis of mental illness, making it difficult to impossible to fulfill these basic requirements. To me this is an inexcusable failure of the system — to provide a diagnosis to a child and then not allocate the proper resources and legislation to support them.

Student ID: 260449109


Child Care Licensing Regulation. (2013, December 1). Retrieved January 30, 2016, from