The report sheds light on the death of the 16-month-old child...

More than two years ago, the sudden, unexplained death of their 16-month-old daughter Arianna Jozef Maragol and Anet Eyvazians rocked and searched for answers.

Important points:

  • A date has been set for a coronal investigation into Arianna’s death
  • The NSW Department of Education has brought charges against Berry Patch Preschool and owner Helen Jacobs following an internal investigation
  • But Arianna’s parents say there are still serious questions about what the department has done to date and the continued security of its policies

Nobody from the daycare Arianna spent that day in Sydney’s west, Berry Patch Preschool in Kellyville Ridge, called or contacted her to explain what had happened – and still has not. An autopsy was inconclusive.

In a case with potentially far-reaching consequences for the childcare sector, the NSW coroner has set a preliminary appointment next year to investigate Arianna’s death, as well as the death of another baby who died under similar circumstances.

As it became known at 7:30 a.m., a damned Education Department investigation has resulted in ten charges being brought against Berry Patch Preschool and six against its owner, Helen Jacobs.

Charges of violating national education and nursing service laws and regulations include improper supervision and protection from harm to Arianna.

But the family did tell ABC Questions about why their daughter’s death had taken so long to investigate why Berry Patch’s rating increased from “compliance” to “exceeding” standards after the death of a child in his care, whether the sleep guidelines were sufficiently clear and consistent; and whether the ongoing monitoring of the sector’s standards was rigorous and effective.

The report highlights unexplained hours

Arianna’s parents say she was healthy when they took her to daycare.(Supplied: Anet Eyvazians / helloBABY)

As reported for the first time at 7:30 a.m., Mr Maragol brought Arianna to the daycare center shortly after 7:00 a.m. on August 24, 2018.

She was put to bed just after 9:00 a.m. and, although she had never slept more than two hours during the day at the center she had been to since January, was allowed to sleep for three hours.

At 12:06 p.m., she was found to have stopped responding.

Shortly thereafter, she was taken to Westmead Children’s Hospital, where she was pronounced dead at 1:21 pm.

The results of the internal investigation the Department of Education concluded in May this year – a copy of which was obtained from the ABC – were doomed.

It found that after being put in her cot, Arianna had to sleep for three hours without any physical exam.

The Berry Patch Childcare Center Kellyville Ridge

The Berry Patch Childcare Center Kellyville Ridge

Arianna’s parents haven’t heard of the Berry Patch Preschool.(abc news)

According to CCTV footage of the nursery, Arianna’s last movements were at 10:17 a.m. – almost two hours before staff found she was unresponsive.

The report found that as of 10:13 am, the little girl’s face – lying on her stomach – was in bed and she appeared to be having problems. She stopped four minutes later.

The investigators wrote: “A crib check at this point may have led to early intervention.”

At 10:50 a.m., Ms. Eyvazians called the preschool to check on her daughter – as she often did – and the staff told her she was fine.

According to the Berry Patch Sleep Policy, staff were required to perform and record checks on sleeping infants every 10 minutes.

However, the policy did not require staff to physically screen the children and it was common to look at a black and white CCTV monitor.

Requires that all sleep exams be physical

In 2017, a year before Arianna’s death, the Australian Child Education and Quality Authority (ACECQA) revised its national standards after an investigation into the death of five-month-old Indianna Hicks, who suddenly and unexpectedly died in care on the Sunshine Coast in 2012.

The standards demanded that employees “are always within sight and hearing of sleeping and resting children so that they can assess a child’s breathing and skin color”.

Jane Wiggill Demonstrates Best Sleep Practice

Jane Wiggill Demonstrates Best Sleep Practice

Red Nose’s chief midwife, Jane Wiggill, says all sleep controls should be physical.(ABC News: Laura Kewley)

Jane Wiggill is the lead midwife at Red Nose, Australia’s premier agency for safe sleep and safer pregnancy. She is responsible for establishing the sleep best practice guidelines on which ACECQA relies.

She said at 7:30 a.m. the quality of the controls was crucial.

“You have to be close enough to hear and see these children.

“In my opinion, examining a baby through a monitor, viewing window or door is not enough.”

Red Nose is calling for a change in national standards to make it clear that all sleep controls must be physical.

“There is a risk of another tragedy”

The NSW Education Department’s internal investigation concludes that other children at Berry Patch Preschool may have been at risk.

On August 24, 2018, enrolled children were treated unsupervised in a cot room at intervals of 42 to 56 minutes.

Crib controls were performed using video surveillance and an audio monitor. Two children in the nursery were not visible in the video surveillance, and the enrolled child Arianna Maragol died after prolonged insufficient supervision.

There is evidence that a similar practice has taken place in the ministry for several years.

Berry Patch staff have stated that they are now examining sleeping children every 10 minutes. However, the NSW Department of Education report indicated that children may still be at risk as the center’s policy has not been formally changed.

“There is a risk that educators will use video surveillance again for crib controls. There is a risk that educators will not go into children’s rooms for about an hour and use black and white CCTV monitors (which do not show all children) to do crib checks. ”

The report concludes that, given that no changes have been made to the Centre’s policies, “there is a risk of further tragedy”.

Despite the fact that Education had not yet investigated the incident and the coronary investigation may still be pending, the ACECQA rating of the Berry Patch Kellyville Ridge Childcare Center was upgraded from “Meet Expectations” to “Exceed Expectations” last August.

Jodie Harrison, Shadow Secretary for Early Learning, said it was incredible.

When Berry Patch was contacted at 7:30 am, he replied, “We decline to comment at this time as the matter is underway and we are defending all charges.”

Parents worried about other children

A small shrine in memory of Arianna in Jozef and Anet's house

A small shrine in memory of Arianna in Jozef and Anet's house

Jozef Maragol and Anet Eyvazians want to make sure that nobody has to go through what they have.(abc news)

As the indictment against Berry Patch goes through the courts, Mr Maragol and Ms Eyvazians have been advised by the Crown Attorney that the coronial investigation is preliminary and is due to begin on June 7, 2021.

Arianna’s case is set to be tried in conjunction with that of another child, a six-month-old whose death in a daycare center in Randwick in March last year raises “similar problems”.

Mr Maragol remains concerned that other children may be at risk as there is a lack of consistency and clarity about the nature of sleep controls and he believes the guidelines are not being enforced.

Last year, the ABC identified nearly 2,000 NSW childcare services that had been three years without re-evaluation.

Ms. Harrison says that while “the structure of the early learning and nursing sector is complex and spanning all levels of government,” with one in five providers not even “meeting” national quality standards, “reform is urgent”.

Department expresses “deepest compassion”

NSW’s education department declined to answer detailed questions while the case was on trial, but a spokesman made the following statement:

We express our deepest condolences to the Maragol family for the tragic loss of their daughter. The health, safety and wellbeing of children in education and care services is a top priority for the department.

As the regulator for education and nursing services within NSW, the Department of Education has initiated proceedings against the service under national laws and regulations. We will work fully with the NSW coroner who will conduct an investigation in 2021.

All service providers must have sleep and rest policies and procedures in place that are informed through best practices. The NSW regulator can and requires the services to provide their sleep and rest policies and procedures at any time as part of the monitoring and assessment and evaluation of compliance.

NSW’s Department of Education provides guidance to education and care services on sleep and rest policies and procedures and is partnering with Red Nose in 2019 to provide free sleep and rest training to NSW’s education and care services. For training resources, see the department’s website.

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