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What constitutes child neglect? The tragic story of the Boutique Children's Hotel, 1971.

About 6:30 a.m. on Monday 22 November 1971, Margaret Leeferink pulled her station wagon up in front of the residence of Miss P. in Calgary. She knocked on the door and collected the first of 13 young children she would pick up that morning, Angela P., a toddler who had recently celebrated her second birthday. Over the next two hours, Mrs. Leeferink would call at other homes throughout Calgary, from Varsity Acres in the northwest to Fairview in the southeast. She then drove the station wagon to her acreage just beyond the western limits of the city in south Calgary where she had fashioned a makeshift day care in a large, detached triple garage. The children she unloaded from the car at around 9:00 a.m. consisted of seven infants less than one year of age, four children between one and two years, and two children over two years. (1)

Margaret Leeferink did not employ anyone on a regular basis at her day care. That morning a 16-year-old girl and another youth were at the home and available to lend a hand when needed. But Margaret Leeferink was the only dedicated caregiver. Her plan was to care for the children until shortly before four o'clock and then bundle them into her station wagon for the return trip to Calgary. She would be finished dropping the children at their homes before 7 p.m. (2)

But Mrs. Leeferink never got the opportunity to make that return trip. Shortly after noon, three provincial child welfare workers entered the property accompanied by two RCMP officers. That afternoon, the children were taken into protective custody by the workers and transported to the Children's Shelter of the City of Calgary. With one exception, the children were released into parental care later that day. The remaining child was claimed at the shelter the next day. (3)

What had caused the child welfare workers to take such precipitous action? In a memo to Premier Peter Lougheed on 25 November, the senior bureaucrat in the Department of Health and Social Development, Deputy Minister Duncan Rogers, summarized what the child welfare workers had found on 22 November:
 The ensuing investigation revealed 10
 infants in the garage and another three in
 the home, each in a separate bedroom
 unattended. Mrs. Leeferink could
 produce no proper registry and could not
 even name one of the children. The
 garage, which contained 1 crib, 2
 playpens, cat, 1 bunk bed, 1 card table, 7
 chairs and multiple toys, was hot, smelly
 and cluttered. The children were dirty,
 wore soiled clothing and had runny
 noses. Many were minus shoes and
 socks and some were chewing licorice,
 including a 6 month old baby. All but
 two of the youngsters were walking or
 crawling on the floor which was covered
 by a dirty rug. No running water was
 available in the garage, open garbage
 pails were used for dirty diapers, five of
 the babies needed changing and fecal
 matter had dried all over the infants'
 buttocks and required wet paper
 washings to remove. (4)

On the first day of a neglect inquiry presided over by Judge J.J. O'Connor of the Juvenile Court, two of the child welfare workers and an RCMP officer presented the following additional observations of the state of Margaret Leeferink's day care on 22 November (5): The smell in the garage "was extremely foul" (p. 9). The garage was windowless (p. 11) and could only be ventilated by leaving the door open. "Your feet stuck to the floor in the kitchen area" (p. 37). "Mrs. Leeferink changed one baby while we were there. The baby had dirty diapers. She had to leave the garage twice to go get some wet material to wipe the bottom off.... When she was finished she just rubbed her hands together and went on to the next" (pp. 37-38).

One can reasonably conclude, given the transportation arrangements, spotty supervision, and inadequate hygiene, that the children enrolled in Margaret Leeferink's day care were at greater risk than most Calgary children of being injured in an accident or picking up a communicable disease.

Child welfare workers decided on 22 November 1971 that the children in Margaret Leeferink's care were being neglected, and they, on behalf of the Department of Health and Social Development, defended that decision during the subsequent neglect inquiry. However the vast majority of parents rejected this judgement since they continued to purchase Leeferink's daycare services in the days after 22 November. Justice O'Connor found "on a review of the entire evidence and as a matter of fact that the children were not neglected." (6)

The existence of such divergent judgements makes this an interesting historical incident. What is particularly important is that the views of parents have been preserved in the transcript of the neglect inquiry, alongside the views of those who participated in the apprehension. The perspectives of working people are often absent from the historical record. But in this article it is possible to outline and analyze how a handful of working parents in Calgary understood and acted upon child care issues in 1971.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, child care emerged as a major public issue in Alberta. The 1971 census revealed that 42.6% of married women were in the paid labour force. This compared with participation rates of 25.9% in 1961 and only 9.9% in 1951. Furthermore, the number of lone-parent families in the province grew from 23,321 (7.6% of the total families) in 1961 to 33,845 (8.9%) in 1971. These trends in labour force participation and family structure meant that, in the early 1970s, a growing number of Alberta parents were looking for someone to care for their preschool children while they worked. (7)

In searching for child care in 1971, Alberta parents faced a number of tradeoffs involving the availability, cost, convenience, and quality of care. The major purpose of this historical study is to explicate those tradeoffs from the perspective of the parents who hired Margaret Leeferink to care for their children.

In 1971, the Alberta government required all "welfare homes" serving four or more persons to be licensed. Day cares were included in the definition of welfare homes. (8) At the neglect inquiry, child welfare worker Mrs. S. reported that most childcare providers were unaware of the licensing requirement and as a consequence her office routinely checked the classified advertisements in newspapers in order to identify new providers and inform them of the licensing requirement. (9)

In June of 1971, Margaret Leeferink placed an eye-catching classified advertisement in the Calgary Herald. It is unknown how many prospective clients contacted Mrs. Leeferink about possibly boarding their children with her while they were away on holiday, or how many children were boarded that summer. What is known is that the advertisement caught the attention of the child welfare office in south Calgary. After an initial phone call, Mrs. S. visited the Leeferink acreage on 18 June and initiated "a licensing application for weekend or week care for six children in her home." At this point Mrs. Leeferink was planning to run a "children's hotel" not a day care; hence the name she gave to her proposed business was "Boutique Children's Hotel."

The Boutique Children's Hotel was to be run from the Leeferink home, not the garage. In the rooms designated for the Children's Hotel, there was sufficient space to care for a maximum of six children. Both a home study and fire inspection were completed that summer as licensing requirements. Then on August 17,
 Mrs. Leeferink, speaking through a
 solicitor at this point, altered her plans
 and proposed a 24 hour/day, 5-6 day
 weekly service while parents worked.
 The Director of Homes and Institutions,
 in conjunction with the Director of Child
 Welfare, refused to grant a license for 24
 hour/day care but informed the solicitor
 that the original application would
 continue to be processed. (10)

After 17 August government officials continued to call the Leeferink operation the Boutique Children's Hotel since this was the name on the only license application she ever submitted. However she had clearly given up on the children's hotel proposal by mid-August.

About this time Margaret Leeferink placed a new classified advertisement in the newspaper and began converting her garage into a makeshift day care. Child welfare workers monitored Mrs. Leeferink's activities and, after a visit in early October, sent her a registered letter asking her to cease operations. Further visits in early November convinced Mrs. Leeferink to voluntarily close down her day care for a week, but she decided to open the following week after getting parents to sign a statement indicating that they had inspected and were satisfied with the day care even though it was unlicensed. She also began padlocking her gate so that child welfare workers could not easily inspect the property. On 19 November, child welfare workers were unsuccessful in trying to enter her property because of the padlocked gate. The same thing happened on the morning of 22 November. At this point one of the workers, Mr. B., phoned Margaret Leeferink. She refused to open the gate when requested to do so and "said she was just talking to the Minister and that he told her to tell me [Mr. B.] to keep off the place." In reply to Mr. B.'s query as to how many children she was looking after, she said, "I got 15,000." The conversation ended with Leeferink telling the child welfare worker that he would have to get the RCMP in order to get onto her property. This is when the police were called. (11)

In the fall of 1971 Margaret Leeferink was very antagonistic towards child welfare officials. When asked at the neglect inquiry to describe his observations of Mrs. Leeferink, one of the parents (Mr. R.) replied, "Well she was a very outspoken person, I noticed, and she didn't like the Social Development too much." When the child welfare workers and RCMP officers came onto her property on 22 November, Leeferink telephoned radio station CKXL to report on the incident while it was in progress. She also made herself available for newspaper interviews after the seizure and posed for a photograph that was prominently featured in The Albertan the next day. Deputy Minister Rogers described press coverage of the events as "sensationalistic" and "one-sided" in favour of Mrs. Leeferink. In part this reflects Margaret Leeferink's skill at publicizing her position. She even managed to get the Minister of Health and Social Development, Neil Crawford, to personally visit and inspect her day care the Saturday after the children were seized. Although no children were in attendance that day, Mr. Crawford ruled that Mrs. Leeferink should be allowed to continue to operate her unlicensed service until after the neglect inquiry so long as the parents of children attending the centre provided written consent. Leeferink's ability to get attention from a cabinet minister is further testimony to her promotional skills, as well as to her connections to the ruling Progressive Conservative Party: she had worked on behalf of Industry Minister Fred Peacock during the historic provincial election campaign that had concluded on 30 August 1971. (12)

By 1971 there were approximately 50 licensed day cares in Calgary with 2,000 spaces. (13) However many of these day cares did not accept infants. Therefore Margaret Leeferink's willingness to look after children aged 0-4 immediately attracted the attention of parents who were desperate for infant care. This explains why the vast majority of children in her care were under two years of age when Mrs. Leeferink was willing to take children up to four years old.

An example is James S., born in March, 1971. He was being cared for by a neighbour but this arrangement ended when the neighbour entered the hospital for an operation. James' parents responded to the classified advertisement, visited the Leeferink acreage that evening and enrolled James to start the next day. In the neglect inquiry the limited options of parents with infants were best explained by the father of Murray P., born in January, 1971. Mr. P. was questioned by the lawyer for the Director of Child Welfare.
 Q: Well, did you enquire of her at that
 time [during a visit to the day care
 during working hours] what staff did she

 A: No. There is not the possibility to
 enquire, sir, for the simple reason that
 there is no facilities available in the City
 of Calgary to take care of children under
 two years of age.

 Q: I see. Well now ...

 A: So you can't ... there is not a position
 to ask even if you were worded about
 something like that. (14)

In this exchange Mr. P. explains how, when the supply of infant care is limited, parents have little room to question the quality of the service they have been lucky enough to obtain. This illustrates one of the problems in making parents responsible for monitoring the quality of child care: it only has the possibility of working when the supply of convenient, affordable child care far exceeds the demand (and parents thus have market power when dealing with a questionable care-giving situation). A strong case can be made that such a market-based mechanism for ensuring quality is less efficient and less effective than a combination of strong government regulations and high training standards for childcare workers.

Margaret Leeferink's day care had two other features that made it appealing to parents. Firstly, she picked up children in the morning and returned them in the evening. This was of great benefit to parents who did not own an automobile and to parents with tight weekday schedules. An example is Miss P., a lone parent who did not own a car. At the neglect inquiry she was asked whether any other children were in the car when her daughter Angela was picked up at 6:30 a.m. She replied, "I never looked," which caused the government counsel to ask, incredulously, "You never looked?" Miss P.'s matter-of-fact reply was, "No, I was busy getting off to work too. I had a job to get to." (15)

Secondly, the monthly charge for care was $55, an amount described as "at least as low as any of the others." Significantly, this charge included transportation, food and diapers. (16) Therefore, the Leeferink day care was especially attractive to parents of limited means: for them, every dollar saved on child care could be spent on another essential item in the household budget. This was at a time when subsidies were only available at one of the few day cares recognized as a Preventive Social Service Project, so most parents had to pay the full cost of child care out of their disposable income.

To her credit, Margaret Leeferink insisted that parents visit the acreage, inspect the facilities and talk with her before placing a child in her care. In the case of Miss P., who did not own a car, Mrs. Leeferink provided transport to and from the acreage.

There were many aspects of these initial meetings that impressed parents. The Leeferink property itself was far beyond the means of many of them. This had a strong effect on parental evaluations of the suitability of the day care. Under questioning at the neglect inquiry, Mrs. S. spoke of her first visit.
 A. We had a hard time finding the place
 and when we found it we couldn't
 believe that that was the place that would
 want to babysit for us.

 Q. Why couldn't you believe it?

 A. Because it was such a house, such a
 nice house and everything and that
 people with money like that don't need
 to babysit, so we asked her if that was
 the place and she said it was and she was
 doing diapers at the time. (17)

Mrs. S. was clearly dazzled by the quality of the Leeferink residence. In actual fact, the house had nothing to do with the potential quality of care since the day care was run from the detached garage. But Mrs. S. did not arrive at this conclusion. Rather, her logic seems to have been that because Margaret Leeferink lived in a very good house, her infant son would receive very good care. This demonstrates one of the major problems with giving parents the exclusive responsibility for choosing child care: they may use irrelevant information when making their decision.

During their first visit to the Leeferink acreage, parents would inspect the garage facilities at a time when no children were in attendance. Mr. R., father of a child born in March, 1971, admitted at the neglect inquiry, "I didn't look for all the technical things and that. All I seen was a bunch of toys and that, carpet and there were some beds in there and one part of it was partitioned off for a kitchen and there was a picnic table there.... "Lacking the technical knowledge to know whether this space was suitable for a day care, he fell back on the commonsense notion of fanciness to make his judgement. When asked to comment on the interior of the garage he stated, "It wasn't as fancy as in the house but as far as I was concerned it was a little bit better than some houses" (8)

After a brief inspection of the garage, Margaret Leeferink would invite the family into her home for a visit. Mrs. S. described such a visit:
 She asked if he was on formula or
 special food and we said "no", you
 know, "just baby foods" and "two-percent
 milk." She asked if he was on
 medication or anything and we said
 "no". And she played with him for a
 while and tried to get him to crawl for
 her and I asked her if she could pick
 Jimmy up the following day and she
 said that was fine.... (19)

Mrs. Leeferink demonstrated in these visits that she knew how to play with young children and appeared to be both conscientious and "sensible." She also proved herself to be very approachable and hospitable even if she lived in a well-to-do house. Finally, the parents were impressed by Margaret Leeferink's appearance on that first visit and in subsequent meetings. She was described as "immaculate" and as always being sharply dressed. Mrs. S. remarked, "She was clean. She would always come fresh in the morning and when she brought him home she would be fresh as ever. She looked as if she had just been to the beauty parlour." (20)

From the parents' perspective, Margaret Leeferink's day care probably seemed to be too good to be true. It was inexpensive and highly convenient, and was run by a conscientious middle class woman with excellent manners. Furthermore, Mrs. Leeferink often volunteered to provide extra services without charge, thus making her seem like a close relative or friend. For instance, she volunteered to board one child when he was sick and another child so that he could get used to her. She also kept the parents informed of changes at the day care and her battles with child welfare officials. As an example, when Angela P. first entered the day care there were eight children. As more children were added, Margaret Leeferink made sure to tell Angela's mother of the additions. (21)

In combination these factors meant that the parents personally trusted Margaret Leeferink to look after their children. When asked why she re-enrolled her daughter in the day care after it closed for a week in early November, Miss P. said she knew the day care was not properly licensed but "it didn't matter.... I think loving care means more than a license." Even after the children were seized by child welfare workers on 22 November, most of the parents rallied around Mrs. Leeferink. Mrs. S. stated that after she picked up her son at the Children's Shelter, "I took him right back out and stayed overnight with him." When asked why she did this, she replied, "Because we knew she [Margaret Leeferink] would be upset and she would probably feel better if she knew someone was standing behind her, and if she knew the children would be back." (22) The apprehension of the children thus brought Mrs. Leeferink and most of the parents closer together. While the confidence that these parents had in Margaret Leeferink's ability to run a day care may have been misguided, their commitment to defiance and solidarity in response to what occurred on 22 November was in the best traditions of the working class.

Margaret Leeferink definitely did not fit the stereotypical profile of a babysitter who neglects children. She must have worked 15 hours a day or more at her daycare business and consistently demonstrated concern for the welfare of the children in her charge and their parents. Indeed, if Mrs. Leeferink had been looking after three young children in her home instead of 13 in the garage, she very well might have been selected as a model babysitter.

Along the same line, the parents involved in this story did not fit the stereotypical profile of parents who neglect their children. They had inspected the premises, talked with Margaret Leeferink and concluded in good conscience that this was an acceptable care-giving arrangement, especially in light of the dearth of alternatives. One parent, Mrs. P., had even gone an extra mile in investigating the suitability of the day care. In late September, after Mrs. Leeferink informed her that the centre was unlicensed, she phoned the Child Welfare office in Calgary to see what the government thought of this day care. The worker she spoke to reportedly said that the garage was suitable for a day care and that Margaret Leeferink would be applying for a license at the end of the month. (23)

Nevertheless, despite the best intentions of both Mrs. Leeferink and the parents, in many ways the children received shoddy care at the day care and were thus unnecessarily placed at risk. The poor care was a direct result of the large number of children that Margaret Leeferink enrolled in her day care even though she had inadequate staff and facilities. This case demonstrates that a love for children and a knowledge of how to look after one, two, or three children does not guarantee that a group care facility will be adequate.

Faced with the relentless demands of so many young children, Margaret Leeferink could only get through her day by cutting corners. There was one witness at the neglect inquiry who provided some insight into the way that Mrs. Leeferink cut those corners. Susan S. was an eighteen-year-old neighbour. One day in mid-October, 1971, she was telephoned by Margaret Leeferink to see if she could come over and help in the day care. When Susan S. arrived, she was left in charge of three children in the garage while Mrs. Leeferink went on a shopping trip with four other children. Susan S. testified:
 I was not to answer the phone. It was
 taken off the hook.... The children didn't
 seem to be getting any attention, there
 weren't any toys on the beds. I was told
 that if they cried I was to go into the
 house. I didn't feel it was proper to leave
 children, such young children, one on an
 unrailed bed. When I went home I told
 my mother that I wouldn't go back. (24)

Susan S. volunteered to testify at the inquiry when she learned about it through the media. Her testimony suggests that Margaret Leeferink got through the near impossible demands of her day by deliberately ignoring the young children in her charge at different times. Inexplicably, Judge O'Connor decided not to attach any weight to Susan S.'s testimony because she had only worked at the day care for a short time. (25) In fact, Susan S. was the only witness at the inquiry who provided insight into Margaret Leeferink's modus operandi when looking after so many children.

All evidence suggests that Margaret Leeferink was a very energetic and competent individual. She did not neglect the children in her care in a consistent fashion (i.e., by leaving them unattended for hours on end), but rather put them into transitory situations of neglect on an irregular basis through the course of the day. Judge O'Connor's ruling in the 1971 neglect inquiry failed to distinguish between different types of neglect, and failed to recognize that when a day care is poorly organized, children can be systematically neglected even when the staff are well meaning and trying their best.

But Margaret Leeferink faced greater challenges in her life than child welfare bureaucrats. At the neglect inquiry, Constable F. reported that he had been called to the Leeferink acreage on two occasions in 1971 prior to 22 November. On the first occasion, 11 June, he found Mrs. Leeferink in a semi-conscious state and repeating that she wanted to die after having ingested pills and alcohol. He took her to a hospital. On 16 June the RCMP received a call regarding a drinking party at the home. When Constable F. arrived, Margaret Leeferink's complaint was that one man at the party, a Mr. H., was threatening her. Mr. H replied, "All's I'm asking you for is my money." (26)

Then on 2 November, Margaret Leeferink was arrested and charged with passing 64 forged cheques between April, 1970 and May, 1971. She appeared in court the next day and was remanded to 8 December. (27)

The limited available evidence suggests that Margaret Leeferink had faced a severe financial crisis in 1971. Her decisions to establish the Boutique Children's Hotel in part of her house, and later to convert her garage into a day care, were probably motivated by the desire to extricate herself from this crisis. Indeed, Mrs. Leeferink appeared desperate to generate income, and this is why she enrolled an excessive number of young children at her day care in the fall of 1971. Had she not been faced by this crisis, Leeferink probably would have limited the number of children in her care, if she had entered the day/care field at all.

On Friday 3 December, five days before she was to appear in court on the forgery charges, Margaret Leeferink unexpectedly showed up at her lawyer's office and "told him of a telephone death threat, from a man with a foreign-sounding voice." He quoted her as saying, "If I should die today it will not be suicide, it will be because I have been murdered." Later that day Mrs. Leeferink reportedly drove her station wagon into the garage on her acreage, the same garage that housed her day care. She apparently closed the garage door, left the engine running, and succumbed to carbon monoxide poisoning. Her body was discovered around 9 p.m. (28)

The public policy issue raised by 1971 Leeferink child care incident is whether it is appropriate to organize the group care of young children on a commercial basis. (29) In commercial care, the quest for profit puts downward pressure on the quality of care. Recognizing this tendency, most Canadian governments enacted policies to encourage not-for-profit day care. To some extent Alberta followed this path between the mid- 1960s and late-1970s under the direction of the Preventive Social Services Act. Since then, however, commercial operators have generally received favourable treatment. As a consequence, Alberta is one of only two jurisdictions in Canada where the commercial sector controls more licensed spaces than the not-for-profit sector. (30)

The Alberta government has promoted the development of a system of child care dominated by custodial facilities (as opposed to facilities that stress early childhood education). Because of financial pressures, low and middle income parents very often choose cheaper care options that are run on a commercial basis and are custodial in character. These parents are then faced with the difficult task of monitoring the quality of care in the day care or family day home to ensure that the operator does not cut too many corners in the quest to squeeze additional profit out of the business. This study has shown that even conscientious and well-meaning parents may lack the knowledge, expertise and time to engage in such monitoring of quality, and may feel pressured to trade off quality against price or convenience.

Parents with money can afford to place their children in high quality day cares that feature a stable and professionally trained staff and carefully designed programs. This option is unavailable to middle and low income families. Consequently, the current system of child care in Alberta fails most children from low and middle income families because it does not enable them to partake in programs that would at least partially compensate for the accident of being born into a less privileged class. It also fails the parents in those families because it burdens them with the task of monitoring childcare arrangements that may be borderline in quality. Like the families who used Margaret Leeferink's day care in 1971, working-class families in Alberta today often have to scramble to find day care that is mediocre at best. Their lives would be much better if the supply of not-for-profit, high-quality programs was greatly expanded, and such programs were made financially accessible to all Alberta children.


(1.) These details of Margaret Leeferink's daycare business are found in the Transcript of the Neglect Inquiry [hereafter TNI], 17 January 1972, 10:45 a.m., 3-7; 16 December 1971, 37, 41 (Provincial Archives of Alberta [hereafter PAA], 83.386, File 12). The names of the individuals who testified at the neglect inquiry are a matter of public record but are irrelevant to this study; hence only the first initial of a last name is reported.

(2.) The scheduled times for pick-up and delivery of four of the children are documented in TNI, 17 January 1972, 10:45 a.m., 8, 19, 32, 49.

(3.) "Children seized from day centre," The Albertan (Calgary), 23 November 1971; TNI, 16 December 1971, 56.

(4.) PAA, 83.386, File "Mrs Leeferink." The memo is titled, "Boutique Children's Hotel, Mrs. Margaret Leeferink, R.R. #2, Calgary."

(5.) TNI, 16 December 1971.

(6.) TNI, 31 January 1972, 4.

(7.) An Historical Profile of the Alberta Family, 1981, Edmonton, Alberta Bureau of Statistics, Tables XXI and XXX.

(8.) This requirement was stipulated in The Welfare Homes Act of 1963 (sec. 2.b.11 and 4.1). It was not a new requirement since, prior to 1963, the Child Welfare Act called for licensing of any facility where four or more children were cared for in exchange for money (memo, Edmonton Council of Community Services to the Commissioner of the City of Edmonton, 9 April 1957, Edmonton Archives, RG11, class 32, file 13).

Since 1971 there have been two significant changes in the licensing threshold for independent family day homes like that run by Margaret Leeferink. The first expanded the coverage of the licensing requirement. Up until 1981, children "related by blood or marriage to the operator" were excluded from consideration for the purpose of licensing (Alberta Regulation 104/78). This exclusion was removed in 1981 (Alberta Regulation 144/81). The effect of this change was that whereas an operator with two young children of her own did not have to be licensed prior to 1981 so long as she looked after three or fewer other children, she now had to be licensed if she looked after more than a single other child. The second change eliminated the licensing requirement for most independent family day homes. In 1994, the licensing threshold was increased to seven children (Alberta Regulation 344/94). As a consequence, an operator with two young children of her own could now look after up to four other children without requiring a licence.

(9.) TNI, 16 December 1971, 26-27.

(10.) Rogers to Lougheed, 25 November 1971 (PAA, 83.386, File "Mrs. Leeferink"). It is tempting to use the term "baby farm" when considering Mrs. Leeferink's intention to board children on her acreage. The Oxford English Dictionary defines "baby farm" as "a derogatory term for a place where the lodging and care of babies is undertaken for profit" (cited in Ruth Ellen Homrighaus, 2001, "Wolves in Women's clothing: Baby-Farming and the British Medical Journal, 1860-1872," Journal of Family History, 26(3), 365N4). In the 19th century the term encompassed both relations of mutual aid where women boarded their children with other women while they worked in jobs such as domestic service, and homes where unwanted babies could be placed on the tacit understanding that should payments cease the child would eventually perish from neglect (Sherri Broder, 1988, "Child Care or Child Neglect? Baby Farming in Late-Nineteenth-Century Philadelphia," Gender & Society, 2(2) 128-148.) The initial idea for the Boutique Children's Hotel was a variation on the baby farm as a form of mutual aid while the proposal submitted on 17 August 1971 exactly fits the definition of a 19th century baby farm. However, in the fall of 1971 Margaret Leeferink mainly operated a conventional day care where children were returned to their parents' care every evening. Nevertheless, on occasion Mrs. Leeferink kept children overnight demonstrating that she had not completely given up on the idea of boarding children. For instance, when James S., a nine-month old infant, was suffering from a cold, Mrs. Leeferink phoned his mother and offered to keep the infant overnight so he wouldn't have to go out in the cold air for the return trip to Calgary. The mother agreed to the arrangement (TNI, 17 January 1972, 10:45 a.m., 49).

(11.) Rogers to Lougheed, 25 November 1971 (PAA, 83.386, File "Mrs. Leeferink"). "Children seized from day centre," The Albertan (Calgary), 23 November 1971. TNI, 16 December 1971, 6-7.

(12.) TNI, 17 January 1972 10:45 a.m., 21; 16 December 1971, 13. "Children seized from day centre," The Albertan (Calgary) 23 November 1971. "Day-care owner, parents may fight shut-down order," Calgary Herald 24 November 1971. Rogers to Lougheed, 25 November 1971 (PAA, 83.386, File: "Mrs. Leeferink"). "Daycare centre gets reprieve," Calgary Herald, 1 December 1971. "Car fumes blamed in Leeferink death," Calgary Herald, 6 December 1971.

(13.) "Experts Back Official Standards," Calgary Herald, 24 November 1971. In the province as a whole there were 113 licensed day cares in January 1971 and 121 in January 1972 (PAA, 83.386, file "Misc.").

(14.) TNI, 17 January 1972, 10:45 a.m., 42.

(15.) Ibid, 8.

(16.) "Children seized from day centre," The Albertan (Calgary), 23 November 1971.

(17.) TNI, 17 January 1972, 10:45 a.m., 47.

(18.) Ibid, 14-16.

(19.) Ibid, 48.

(20.) Ibid, 4, 21, 31, 49.

(21.) Ibid, 21, 38.

(22.) Ibid, 51, 59-60.

(23.) Ibid, 31-32.

(24.) TNI, 16 December 1971, 77-79. Incidentally, Susan S. reported that there were nine dogs on the acreage who "ran in and out" of the day care "all the time" (76).

(25.) TNI, 31 January 1972, 2.

(26.) TNI, 16 December 1971, 88-90.

(27.) "Uttering forgery charges face Calgary woman," Calgary Herald, 4 November 1971.

(28.) "Car fumes blamed in Leeferink death," Calgary Herald, 6 December 1971.

(29.) For a more general discussion of this policy issue see Susan Prentice, 1997, "The Deficiencies of Commercial Day Care," Policy Options 18(1), 42-46.

(30.) In 1998, Newfoundland & Labrador had the highest percentage of spaces in the commercial sector at 61. After Alberta's 59%, the next highest percentage was 43 for Nova Scotia (Childcare Resource and Research Unit, Early Childhood Care and Education in Canada: Provinces and Territories 1998, Childcare Resource and Research Unit, University of Toronto, 2000).

Tom Langford is an Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology, University of Calgary. He is making a study of the history of day care in Alberta.
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Author:Langford, Tom
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Geographic Code:1CALB
Date:Jun 22, 2003
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