Left, Tina Brooks and Tailah (3) with Maree Gallagher and Connor (5).
Left, Tina Brooks and Tailah (3) with Maree Gallagher and Connor (5).

Nowhere to go

By UTE SCHULENBERG

THE fire that destroyed Caterpillar House Occasional Day Care on Sunday burnt more than just the building.

It also burnt the only chance many parents had to have their children minded for a few hours while they attended to the rest of life such as doctor or dental appointments, classes, meetings or unforeseen emergencies.

Director Rose Franks said Caterpillar House had provided the only occasional care in the area.

"Not everyone needs full-time care five days a week," Mrs Franks said.

"Our parents knew they could hand their children over to us anytime for a few hours.

"Nowhere else offers that. One woman rang yesterday needing to find care for her child because she was being induced and wanted her husband with her. There was nowhere to refer her it's frustrating."

For parent Maree Gallagher the loss of occasional care has presented a new challenge . . . explaining to her five-year-old son, Connor, why he can't go back to play with his friends.

"Connor is autistic and the familiarity of the staff and the place was very important for him," Mrs Gallagher said.

"I've had to take him there and show him the burnt building to help him understand. He's been going there since we arrived in Coffs three years ago and loves it.

"It's not like preschool where there is a routine there he could just be a kid and play. This has been traumatic for him."

Mrs Franks said she had spoken to insurance assessors and the process of rebuilding was under way but would take some time.

"We will be closed at least until the new year, maybe longer," she said.

"We'd like to be operational as soon as possible. At this stage we've had no luck finding alternative premises."

Police are continuing their inquiries into the cause of the fire, which caused an estimated $300,000 of damage.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Coffs Harbour detectives on 6652 0299.



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