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4-year-old’s lollipop adventure costs daycare workers €1K apiece

The boy's ultimate goal was to find his way home to his mum, according to his father.

Kaksi tyhjää leikkipuiston keinua.
File photo of playground, not related to story. Image: Yle / Wasim Khuzam

Two daycare workers were ordered to pay fines for an incident last summer at an Espoo daycare centre from which a four-year-old boy escaped to buy himself a lollipop.

Western Uusimaa District Court handed down each of the daycare workers 40 day-fines, or about 1,000 euros each, saying they had put the child in danger because they failed to keep an eye on him.

The incident took place in mid-July. The boy's usual daycare centre was closed for the summer. Instead he was at a centre in the eastern part of town, where the workers were looking after a total of eight children that day.

The children played in the yard that morning, but just before lunchtime, the workers noticed that the boy had gone missing.

The boy had apparently managed to climb over a one-metre high fence, crossed a road and went into a nearby grocery store, according to his father, who later discussed the day's events with his son.

Lollipop and police car ride

The boy's ultimate goal was to find his way home to his mum, according to his father.

The road that the boy managed to cross on his own has a vehicle speed limit of 30 km/h but the father noted that people often drive faster than that.

A woman at the grocery store noticed the young boy holding a lollipop near the shop till. She paid for the candy and sat with the boy on a bench to talk to him.

The escapee told her he was out on his own, and the woman then called police who came to pick him up.

The four-year-old later told his parents he thought his ride in the police car was "exciting."

During the youngster's adventure, daycare staff called emergency services and searched the area for the missing child. The workers also alerted their supervisor about the matter, who later testified the workers had appropriately followed protocol for such situations.

Court: Workers should have been more vigilant

Day fines are calculated according to annual salaries; in the case of the workers a 40-day fine amounted to about one thousand euros each.

In their defence, the child care professionals said that the daycare centre's yard has upper and lower sections, and the children were not supposed to be on the upper yard.

One of the workers testified that it was difficult to keep an eye on the entire yard due to a set of bushes that separated the upper and lower sections.

She said that the centre's former supervisor had expressed concern that the bushes should be trimmed, and that the vegetation had not been cut since the facility's new boss had started working there.

The boy managed to climb over the metre-tall fence because of holes in the side. One of the nurses testified that she had notified her supervisor about the condition of the fence about six months before the boy's escape.

However, the court said the condition of the fence and bushes were not mitigating circumstances, saying that the workers should have been even more careful because they knew about the yard's shortcomings.

The day fines are not enforceable until the defendants decide whether to appeal the decision.

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