Nightmare nurseries: Five more creches shut down following abuse complaints

Nightmare nurseries: Five more creches shut down following abuse complaints
One of the 'Mippie en Moppie' children's daycare centres. The Flemish governmental 'Agentschap Opgroeien' has also urgently suspended the four other branches of daycare center Mippie en Moppie after a report that a child was tied to the bed with duct tape in his sleeping bag. Credit: James Arthur Giekere / Belga

Following reports of child abuse last week, one of the five establishments was closed. As stories surfaced of neglect and abuse at the other four centres as well, all five nurseries of the Mippie and Moppie group – under manager Myriam Broeckx – were closed by the Growing Up agency with immediate effect.

A picture circulated last week of a two-and-a-half-year-old child being tied to his cot with tape, sparking outrage.

Since then, more and more stories surfaced of neglect and abuse at Mippie and Moppie daycare centres. The agency Growing Up confirmed that as many as 19 additional complaints were received over the past few days about various establishments.

''These include three complaints from former employees,'' said the Antwerp Public Prosecutor's Office. The five nurseries will remain closed until 23 January, unless a final verdict of the investigation follows sooner.

Therefore, as of this week, none of the 137 children in the centres are able to attend nursery, leaving parents trying to find solutions for their children while they work. The municipalities involved are now working with the Local Childcare Agency to find a solution.

A call for punishment

Some 55 parents formed a group with the aim of bringing the nightmare nursery manager, Myriam Broeckx, to justice.

"We won't give up until she is punished," is the resounding cry from enraged parents. Those who filed complaints responded with relief after the decision to close down the centres. The parents are joined with ex-employees in a WhatsApp group seeking answers as to what happened or did not happen to their child.

More complaints have been reported by police in different towns concerning the nursery schools. The Antwerp public prosecutor's office confirmed that complaints were from parents and former employees alike. All files still need to be sent to the public prosecutor's office, so the police cannot say anything about the content.

One of the 'Mippie en Moppie' children's daycare centres, on the Tremelobaan in Keerbergen. Credit: James Arthur Giekere / Belga.

Mother from Tremelo, Kirsti Godefridis (36), told Het Laatste Nieuws: ''Kind en Gezin has made a good decision and we hope they will continue to handle it correctly this time.'' These complaints are not the first to come against the Mippie and Moppie nurseries. Accusations and complaints of abuse and neglect date as far back as 2010.

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Many complaints were directed personally at founder Myriam Broeckx. The complaints are difficult to read and include stories about children who cried being left in a laundry room without ventilation until they cried themselves to sleep and children who were not hungry being force fed. These same complaints have been made this year.

Denial and objection

The manager Myriam Broeckx denied the abuses last week. According to her, a former employee was trying to take revenge for being fired. However, Monday night Broeckx could not be reached for comment.

''The organiser has the right to object to the decision, but that objection does not have a suspensive effect,'' Kind en Gezin explained. ''The nursery will therefore remain closed until a final decision is made.''

Credit: James Arthur Giekere / Belga

Many parents, having picked their children up from the nurseries on Monday for the last time, were at a loss for words or ideas of what to do now.

The Opgroeien Agency, together with the municipalities of Zemst and Keerbergen, will look for childcare places for the 137 children who were staying in the five now-suspended nurseries, along with the dozens of new children for whom places had already been reserved in the coming months.

"It will be no small feat as at least a fifth of all independent shelters have disappeared in one fell swoop," Kathleen Govaerts, Councillor of childcare in Zemst said, "in times when there is a shortage of shelters and hands everywhere anyway."

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