Sunday, October 30, 2011

Reporting Accidents and Incidents

What kinds of accidents and incidents need to be reported to parents? The simple answer is "everything". Anything that might cause a parent to have a question about what happened needs to be documented. A very simple injury or incident can suddenly become a big deal if a parent thinks we are not being honest with them about what actually happened.

Obviously, if a child is injured in our care, our first job is to care for the injured child while still providing proper supervision to the other children. But, once the child is cared for, the next priority is making sure that the child's parent knows exactly what happened and how our staff cared for their child.

As soon as the situation is settled, an Accident/Incident Report must be completed. Delaying a report can cause staff to forget important details.

An Accident/Incident Report must be:
  • Filled out completely as soon as possible; delays can cause staff to forget details.
  • Objective, not subjective. Include only what was directly observed.
  • Signed by the staff member who observed the accident or incident or observed the injury on the child.
  • Reviewed and signed by the Center Director or designee.
  • Properly shared with parents. (Does the parent need to be called or can you notify them of the injury or incident when they pick up their child?)
  • Filed in the child's file for future reference.
Handling accidents and incidents properly can help keep small occurrences from turning into major situations.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Tracking Product Recalls

I had a very humbling experience earlier this year when I realized that some of the cribs in my program were recalled last year and I didn't know about it until months later. Since that time, I have instituted a couple of measures to make sure that we stay more on top of product recalls. Some of the measures that we now take are:
  • Ensuring that the staff member with purchasing responsibility completes (and mails) all product registration cards.
  • Signing up for emailed recall notifications from the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
But...I know that I still don't have a good system in place yet. I've been brainstorming this for some time now, but just don't have a good solution.

I have thought of a "hard-copy" system, such as keeping receipts, purchase logs, etc. in a binder. But how do you organize that binder; alphabetical by product, alphabetical by company, according to the product's category, etc.? Then, I suppose you would have a staff member assigned to check that binder on a monthly basis or so and compare your products to the online list. Of course, one of the questions then is, how much detail do you go into on your purchases? Do I really need to track purchases of markers and crayons? But, if I don't, Murphy's Law dictates that one of the sets of markers I purchase will be recalled.

It seems like the only manageable system would be some sort of automated system. Wouldn't it be awesome if we could, maybe, scan UPC codes on the products we purchase and have them automatically entered into our program database with product name, purchase date, etc.? Then, we could link that database to the CPSC database so that when one of our products is recalled, we are automatically notified. I suppose that's my ideal world. But, since something as simple as this newsletter tests my "tech skills", I don't think I will be the one developing that system.

So, this week, I'm asking for your input. How do you track product recalls? Thanks in advance for sharing your ideas.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

"Take It Outside" Week

The Head Start Body Start National Center for Physical Development and Outdoor Play has designated October 16 - 22 as Take It Outside Week to "encourage educators, families and caregivers to make time outdoors an important part of young children's daily lives."

They state:
  • Today's children spend less time outdoors than any generation in history.
  • American preschoolers watch 32 hours of television a week.
  • Current research indicates that children who regularly play outdoors are healthier, smarter and happier than children who do not.
Suggestions for a Take It Outside Event include:
  • Host a Play Day filled with lots of outdoor games and activities
  • Host a Gardening Day and plant fall flowers and shrubs and grasses to enhance your outdoor space
  • Host a Nature Play Day – go for a nature hike, build forts and dens and dig for worms
One activity I enjoy doing with is a "Sock Walk" Each child needs a big, fuzzy sock. (Old wool socks work well.) Have each child put the fuzzy sock over one of their shoes. Go for a walk. Try to walk through interesting areas with a lot of different types of weeds, etc. When you get back to the Center, look at the seeds, etc. that have gathered on the socks. Plant each sock in a pot. It's fun to watch the pots over the next couple of months to see what grows from the seeds, etc. that were collected on the socks.
Enjoy your Sock Walk and the "fruits" of your walk!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Rainy Days and Mondays

Actually, I want to talk about rainy and windy days, but "rainy days and Mondays" just sounds so much better.

I was talking with a co-worker last Monday and she was very concerned that her students were very distracted that morning. She was worried that she was doing something wrong that morning and was doing a self-check to see if she seemed crabby or something. I kind of chuckled, pointed to the window, and asked her if she hadn't looked outside yet. It was pouring down rain.

I live in Northern California. For those who don't know about the weather around here, we pretty much haven't seen rain since about March. We get quite a bit of rain from about November through March, but VERY little throughout the rest of the year. (A warm rain is a foreign concept to most of my students.)

So....this was our first rain of the season. People who have worked with children for a while know how weather changes impact children. For us on Monday, not only was it a rainy day, but it was the first one for a long time. No wonder our kids were a little "off".

Since my co-worker had never heard about a connection between children and weather, I decided to do a little research. Researchers have found a correlation between changes in temperature and humidity and children's behavior. Although this just confirmed what I already believed to be true, it was nice to know that it wasn't just my imagination.

So what do we do with this? I suppose the biggest take-away I have is that, while I understand that I need to have solid lesson plans so that I know what I am trying to accomplish with my students on any given day, I also need to have the flexibility that, when the weather changes, my plans can change as needed. I need to be aware of how children are impacted by weather changes and manage the day with that in mind.

Keep your umbrellas handy and watch out for puddles!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

You Can't Repossess Child Care

We all know that if you don't make your car payments, your lender will send someone to repossess your car. Unfortunately, if a parent doesn't pay their child care fees, we can't repossess their child care.

I've always been amazed at parents who prioritize their bills with child care at the bottom of that list. It's kind of tough to hear that, in order of payment priority, your program falls below the parent's cable television service.

We have been struggling for years to be treated like the professionals that we are. Allowing ourselves to be the parent's lowest financial priority is three steps backward in that struggle. The only way that parent can make me their lowest priority is because I allow it to happen.

So....what to do?? We have to have firm financial policies in place. We have to have a Rate Sheet in place that explains very clearly what we charge for what services. We have to have a solid contract in place that spells out what services we are providing for what fees, when those fees are due, and what will happen if those fees are not paid on time. And, of course, we have to enforce those policies, every single time.

I know....we love the child and care about the family. We want to help them out. But we simply cannot allow concerns for one family to endanger the child care arrangements of all of the families in our program. If we can't pay our bills, our program will close and all of our families will have to find other child care.

Because we cannot repossess child care services, we have to insist that all fees that are rightly due to us be paid in advance. If the fee is not paid by the due date, the child cannot attend. It's as simple as that. It's not mean; it's showing financial responsibility for your program.