All must chip in to save kids from ‘forgotten child syndrome’

PETALING JAYA: Ways must be looked at to prevent “forgotten baby syndrome”, the phenomenon where parents or guardians forget they have a child in a parked vehicle, says the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry.

Its deputy minister, Datuk Aiman Athirah Sabu, said curbing such incidents is a collective responsibility.

As such, collaborative efforts with other ministries, government agencies, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and communities are necessary, besides a special programme for parents to raise their awareness on safety.

“We will be discussing with the Transport Ministry on how an alert system may need to be developed or installed on vehicles as a joint effort to deal with the issue moving forward.

“I believe that this issue is our shared responsibility and not only rests on the shoulders of the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry, but also that we all understand and view this issue as serious.

“The Malaysian Institute of Road Safety Research (Miros) may also be able to give us more practical suggestions for the safety of our children.

“I welcome the cooperation of Miros and everyone,” she told The Star.

Aiman Athirah said updating the SOP for taska (childcare centres) was also part of the collective action in ensuring that the safety of the children remains a priority for all parties.

On Monday, Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Nancy Shukri said that the proposed ban on tinted car windows to prevent fatal cases of children being left in the car had been raised with Transport Minister Anthony Loke as it is under the jurisdiction of his ministry.

She was reported as saying that tinted windows were one of the causes of such incidents and so it was up to the Transport Minister to decide whether action is necessary.

Loke on Tuesday had said there were no plans to ban tinted windows for cars, adding that it was necessary for certain people for health or security reasons.

Certain car models now come with backseat baby alarms to serve as a reminder to check the rear seats of the car before the driver walks away, while navigation apps such as Waze come with child reminders to alert parents to check for the child in the backseat upon arrival at a destination.

On Nov 13, Nancy said that her ministry would make it compulsory for nursery operators to contact parents if their child is absent to prevent accidental deaths of children left in cars.

She said the SOP regarding the matter needed to be updated following recent deaths due to parents forgetting to drop their children off at daycare facilities.

Meanwhile, her deputy Aiman Athirah said it can happen to anyone, especially parents who are in a state of lethargy or facing various work challenges and pressure.

“No parent would intentionally leave their children in an unsafe place, let alone in a car to be trapped alone.

“I believe there must be a special programme to give training and awareness on this issue to the parents themselves, without having to wait for it to become a more widespread problem.

“Baby or child safety needs to be one of the important topics in the parenting skills syllabus, regardless of whether it is driven by agencies under the ministry, such as the National Population and Family Development Board, or NGOs that can play a role as our strategic partners,” she added.

Aiman Athirah also said NGOs and community organisations can start helping by holding awareness and advocacy programmes throughout the country, adding they can provide awareness and reminders in a targeted community context.

She said safety reminders must also be introduced and repeated, including important tips such as placing children’s items on the front seat, placing parents’ important personal or work items near the child’s car seat, and ensuring that the car seat is visible in the rearview mirror.

She added that sticky notes or pictures of the children can also be pasted on the dashboard as a reminder to parents, besides setting an alarm on a mobile phone or watch and child reminders on the Waze app.

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