Tuesday, March 27, 2012

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month

National Child Abuse Prevention Month is designed to raise public awareness of the all-too pervasive problem of child abuse.  As child care professionals, we have a unique role in protecting children from abuse or neglect.  Not only do we have to ensure that our own programs are safe places for children, but we also have to watch for signs of abuse or neglect that occur outside of our programs.  

Protecting children is one of our utmost priorities and we must ensure that all of our staff members understand how to do this. The first step is establishing a Child Abuse Prevention, Identification, and Reporting Policy that will make sure that your program is designed to prevent child abuse and that all staff are trained on how to prevent, identify and correctly report instances of suspected child abuse or neglect.  As an addendum to this policy, you will need a Child Guidance Policy to make sure that every staff member is perfectly clear on how to provide appropriate guidance to the children in their care and  what are unacceptable behaviors with children.  The final piece of your child protection triad is a Touch Policy that spells out appropriate and inappropriate touch. 

In order to be effective, these policies must be part of your New Employee Orientation and must be included in your on-going staff training on at least an annual basis (perhaps in April, for a built-in reminder).

On a larger scale, you may want to consider hosting some sort or child abuse awareness event such as:
  • Wear blue (or blue ribbons) for child abuse awareness.
  • Provide blue ribbons for your staff and parents to wear or tie to their car antennas. 
  • Host a "Party for Prevention" with activities for children and donate all proceeds to a local child protection agency.
  • Provide a display of pinwheels (maybe made by your children) on your property as part of a national display representing healthy futures for children.
  • Have a staff "casual dress" day in exchange for donating $5 each to a local child protection agency.  Encourage other businesses to do the same.
  • Provide your parents with a copy of the calendar "30 Ways to Promote Child Well-Being During National Child Abuse Prevention Month". (click on "Activity Calendar" about halfway down the page, in the center section)

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Investing In Yourself

Being at the CAEYC Conference this weekend made me reflect a bit on professional development.  It was great seeing about 2,000 child care professionals taking valuable time away from their duties to expand their own knowledge, improve their skills, and network with kindred spirits (oh yeah, and check out some really cool exhibitors).  

As I was in a booth for this particular conference, I was not able to attend any of the workshops.  But, I was able to have some good, thought-provoking conversations with both child care professionals and other exhibitors; definitely gave me some things to think about.  I've always wondered at conferences if the greatest benefit is actually from the workshops or from the chance to spend quality time bouncing ideas back and forth with other professionals.  Regardless, it's time well spent.

In the hotel room in the evenings of the conference, I was working on homework for a class that I am currently taking as part of a reading specialist certification.  I haven't taken classes in quite some time and have been amazed at not only what I have learned in these classes, but to what degree I've been forced to really examine what I know and don't know about various subjects.  Really digging into current research and the educational implications of that research has been fascinating.  It has led me to make a personal commitment to take at least one class a year to keep more current in my field.  I will also try to get to at least one conference per year.  

If your state has a continuing education requirement, it's great that you have a built-in motivation for staying current.  If not, I challenge you to join me in a commitment to ensure your own professional development.  I think we all owe it to the children we work with  to know and understand the latest research and to learn how to apply that research to constantly improve our programs.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Technology and Young Children--NAEYC Speaks Out

I have long understood that, even though I am pretty decent with computers, I am very technologically delayed in comparison to my sons.  If I need music put on my ipod, I call them.  It seems so intuitive to them, where I struggle for hours to remember how to do it.  So, I get it.  They were born in a different world than I was and just "get" things that I don't.

But, I hit a new level of humble the other day.  While watching my son's hockey game, I sat with his teammate's 17-month-old brother.  He grabbed his mom's iphone, scrolled through the screens to find his game, started it up and happily played this electronic game.  All of this while his mom laughed about talking her dad through where to find the latest application he had loaded to his phone.  We both agreed that we needed to just send little dude to his grandpa to help him with his phone.

I've been shaking my head over this for a few days.  Then I see that NAEYC just released a bold position statement on technology and interactive media for programs serving young children. 

Their position has a firm grasp on where we are as a society and technology's role in our world.  It is a much more courageous position than the simplistic screen time = evil.  In a nutshell, they state that this technology is here to stay; it's not some sort of passing fad that we can ignore for a while and it will go away.  Given this new understanding, one of our roles as educators is to teach children how to be good digital citizens "through an understanding of the use, abuse, and misuse of technology as well as the norms of appropriate, responsible, and ethical behaviors related to online rights, roles, identity, safety, security, and communication". 

The NAEYC has clearly set forth a position that addresses the role of technology within their guiding principle that classroom activities, whatever they may be, are developmentally appropriate and used purposefully by well-educated professionals.  Appropriate uses of technology in a program serving young children will be "active, hands-on, engaging, and empowering; give the child control; provide adaptive scaffolds to ease the accom­plishment of tasks; and are used as one of many options to support children’s learning". As educators, it is our responsibility to be knowledgeable about the technology available to enhance children's learning and to purposefully plan uses of that technology to support our learning objectives for each child in our care.

To read the entire position statement, click here.
Image courtesy of http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=503 

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

I'm Liable for THAT?.....Employee Retaliation Claims

Last week I started talking about Employment Practices Liability insurance and why every business should look into it.  Now I'd like to take it a little further  to define what types of employment practices can get us into trouble as employers.

I think that most of us have heard of sexual harassment, workplace violence, discrimination based on race, religion, age, national origin, etc.  I wanted to give you some data on what types of charges are filed with the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission).

Race                      36.2%                 Sex           31.5%                Retaliation          27.1%
National Origin       9.8%                 Religion        2.4%

At a recent seminar on employment law, a lengthy discussion was conducted in regard to retaliation claims.  Retaliation claims are filed when an adverse employment action is alleged to have happened in retaliation for the employee filing a complaint or an application for a program like workers compensation, disability, maternity leave, etc.  It is viewed by the employee that because they filed something (i.e. workers compensation), they were fired.  

These types of claims are on the rise and courts are opening the door wider with some current rulings.  It is becoming easier for employees to file these claims and harder for employers to defend against them.  An example of retaliation in a child care program could be a situation where an employee is injured on the job.  You hire a substitute to cover the shift and end up with a substitute with better qualifications than the original employee.  You lay off the other employee and later hire the substitute.  This would be grounds for a retaliation claim.  It can be perceived that you retaliated against the employee for filing for workers compensation by laying them off and hiring someone else.  

Having solid employment practices, policies and procedures is critically important to your business.  You have to make sure you have a concrete hiring process, employment policies, evaluation processes, firing/termination processes, etc.  We also have an attorney whom we can call with specific questions that arise on a regular basis.  Our third layer of protection is our EPL policy.  We try very hard to follow all the rules and regulations, do what is fair, treat everyone as we would want to be treated, etc. etc.  But it is impossible to protect yourself or your business all of the time from allegations (true or not).  Choosing the right insurance is a very important  business decision.