In our last visit to the Allergy Clinic, the allergist suggested that a home-based (smaller) daycare is most likely a more suitable environment for Maya due to her multiple allergies. He seemed to think that in a smaller setting, cross contamination would be easier to prevent. I shared that opinion with him, until I visited a few of those home based daycares. Indeed they are smaller; small enough that all children sit at one or two tables and Maya would be seated next to someone consuming milk products, where spills would lead to cross contamination. Toys don't get cleaned that often either. We have gone down that road before with the previous daycare. Maya was seated at a separate table and still cross contamination was an issue.
I am constantly amazed by how the government boasts that our children are protected against discrimination and yet there is evidence to the contrary. It is true that daycares are breaking the law when they single out one child because of allergies and refuse to take her in. On the other hand, I think the severe lack of awareness out there is a primary cause of this discrimination. People who have a limited understanding of allergies often think in terms of black and white. In other words, they find it less stressful to ban the allergen rather than reduce cross contamination. Hence, the peanut free policies everywhere. I believe this is why banning ultimately fails. By banning the item, it becomes unnecessary to implement measures against cross contamination. However, this gives a false sense of security, because in reality, no one can ban an allergen consistently. There will always be the parent who forgot and put a peanut butter sandwich in their kid's lunchbox, or the one who sent their son to school with a granola bar that contained nuts. And even if the parents are conscientious, some kids will neglect to wash their hands and mouth after consuming peanut butter. Banning an allergen in a small setting may work temporarily, but in a larger setting, things are more complex and harder to control. You can control what 10 parents bring in to a home daycare, but you cannot control what 75 parents bring in to a big daycare centre. In our case, Maya is allergic to milk, eggs, and peanuts. As much as I would love the peace of mind that banning milk, eggs, and peanuts would give me, I would worry more about what would happen if someone accidentally brought it in while there are no measures to reduce cross contamination. So after much thought, I still believe that reducing exposure through prevention of cross contamination is the answer as opposed to banning.
Those who cannot ban the item prefer to ban the allergic child instead. Removing milk from daycare menus and school cafeterias is almost impossible. Some parents strongly believe that if their child does not consume milk they he or she will die of malnutrition. Regardless of the reasons, milk is a food item that is widely popular and so there is always a swift and extreme response when even a suggestion is made with regards to milk. The dilemma in daycares is twofold. On the one hand, parents of other children demand that their kids drink nothing but milk while in daycare, and in many cases that fuels the "us versus them" attitude which banning introduces. On the other hand, daycare staff finds it too much work to try and reduce cross contamination, and that is because there is no federal or even provincial mandate that urges them to do so. This is why I wholeheartedly believe and support Sabrina's Law. It dictates that every school have an anaphylaxis policy in place. In addition, one of the contents of the policy is that it include "Strategies that reduce the risk of exposure to anaphylactic causative agents in classrooms and common school areas". Once again, the law is not actually banning the allergen, but it sets the expectation that it is the responsibility of school staff to reduce cross contamination. When a request becomes a law, people tend to be more attentive to it.
Daycares seem to think that they have a choice when it comes to accepting a child with allergies. You don't often hear of a child being rejected from daycare because he's autistic, or has cerebral palsy. Those children are protected under the disabilities act, whereas children with allergies are not. Last month I put in some phone calls to several government departments inquiring about that very thing. The answers were vague and ambiguous. Other than Sabrina's Law, there is no definite law, that I know of, which protects children with allergies. In fact, the different departments I spoke to, were not even sure if children with allergies are protected under the umbrella of the disabilities act because allergies are not seen as a disability. Currently, daycares are more than willing to accommodate children with peanut allergies. Most daycares and schools are now practically peanut and nut free. Why is it easier to accept a child with a peanut allergy, yet reject one with a milk allergy? Perhaps because it's easier to ban than to work on reducing cross contamination. However, to me that implies that neither child's life is worthy of the effort, and that is simply unacceptable.
What do you think?