Christine Holloway and her husband pulled their five-year-old child from the Township’s Splash of Creativity summer day camp after their son was left completely unsupervised at the popular Willoughby Park playground and taken away by a man without anyone challenging that stranger.
Luckily that stranger was his father picking him up, but there wasn’t any camp staff around to notice their son missing, claim the Holloways.
Christine wrote a letter to the recreation department at Langley Township after her husband went to pick their son up at the day camp at 4:20 p.m.
He spoke with his son and asked where the camp staff were. Looking around, there was no staff to be seen, he said.
Holloway managed to walk his son inside the community centre to retrieve his belongings without any day camp staff there either.
“Shortly after 5 p.m., we received a call at our home from a caller who identified themselves as from the Willoughby Community Centre and asked to confirm that Evan had been picked up.
“Apparently, it took until the end of day when, presumably, someone realized that there was a blank line on the sign out form and no children left, meaning our child was unaccounted for during a period of over 40 minutes,” said Holloway.
Both parents feel sick about what could have happened.
“We take responsibility for what happened and recognize how serious this was,” said David Leavers, Township director of parks and recreation.
Leavers said staff met about the incident to debrief the following day and again the next day.
“All our policies and procedures are being reviewed and we have changed some protocols,” said Leavers.
One thing that has changed immediately is campgoers in the before and after care portion of the camp will not be allowed to play at the spray park or playground in those times. They will be inside the centre.
The manager at Willoughby Community Centre has spoken extensively with the Holloways.
“They have reassured me that they have reinforced procedures with staff,” said Christine. “They are taking it seriously and they have committed to me that they will provide a progress report at the end of the month.”
While she appreciates the response, it wasn’t adequate to put their son back in that day camp.
The staffing levels are still one staff member to 12 children and she feels, without other measures, that ratio is unrealistic.
“That is a very busy park, it’s impossible to keep your eyes on them all.”
The Holloways want the Township to review its protocols and staffing levels, and suggest that campgoers should at least be identified with same coloured shirts and periodic head counts.
She also suggests that staff should wear bright coloured tops so children can easily identify who staff are too, if they need help.