Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Developing Your Child Care Staffing Plan

Staffing your child care program appropriately is one of your most important tasks; it is what allows your staff to provide the best possible care for the children and keeps your budget in-check.  Understaffing, aside from being illegal, stresses staff and significantly decreases the quality of care you can provide.  However, overstaffing can kill your program just as quickly by bankrupting you.  

Most Child Care Licensing agencies want to see a staff schedule as one of the requirements for initial licensing and during subsequent visits.  And, most of them like to see just a simple list like: 

Julia Jones
Preschool 1
Megan McNeil
Toddler 2
Tanya Tate
Toddler 2

This is nice and clear, so I can see why Licensing analysts like it.  But, I can’t use it to plan my staffing and most of the staffing managers with whom I speak can’t do it either.  I have to be able to “see” it.  So, I have always used a planner like this:

As much as I like this style (and need it), it was always a pain to format each individual cell, then reformat each time my schedule changed.  Finally, after years of spending way too much time planning my schedule, we developed what we call the “Visual Schedule”.  On this schedule, I can now input my staff’s schedules in the simple list format that Licensing likes, then “see” it represented visually.  We have recently made this product available on our website.  Find our “Staff Planner” at:  http://daycaretools.com/DaycareProducts.aspx#Personnel

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Math Manipulatives—Help or Hindrance?

As early educators, we have been taught the value of concrete, hands-on learning experiences.  Children learn best by doing.  In math, one of the most frequently used methods of providing concrete, hands-on experience is through manipulatives.  Especially for one-to-one correspondence and addition and subtraction, simple counters are some of the most-used manipulatives.  I think, at one time or another, I have used about every kind of counter made—discs, bears in three sizes, cars, etc., etc., etc.

I read an article today about the down side of manipulatives (McNeil and Jarvin, 2007).  The authors contend that there are two reasons that use of manipulatives can be harmful in math education.  The first reason, which I don’t believe is an issue in Early Childhood Education, is that teachers hold on to a belief that math should be explained to children rather than discovered.  The teacher will guide a student step-by-step through the problem, allowing the child practice the procedures, and providing feedback as necessary.  The authors quoted one teacher as saying “Sometimes I think that they are just having fun, but I don’t mind because eventually we’ll get to the real math part.”  That does not sound like an ECE person to me.

However, the authors’ second concern regarding manipulatives was interesting to me.  They contend that “poorly chosen” manipulatives can pose problems.  They state that it is confusing for children when everyday items are used as manipulatives…you know, like when I used little cars.  The authors’ research found that familiar manipulatives, especially those that are very perceptually detailed, can be distracting as the student may spend more time thinking about the objects and their known purposes than about the math concepts being presented (ScienceDaily, 2013).  However, that same perceptual detail can help a student’s understanding of the concept if the manipulative is not a well-known item.

McNeil summarized this finding as "…it is easier for children to use objects in mathematical tasks when those objects have maximum 'bling' (they are bright and shiny) and minimum recognizability".  Food for thought when you are planning your next math activity.  (Just be sure that your new manipulatives are appropriate-sized so that they do not present choking hazards.)

“When Theories Don’t Add Up:  Disentangling the Manipulatives Debate” by Nicole McNeil and Linda Jarvin in Theory Into Practice, Fall 2007 (Vol. 46, #4, p. 309-316).  http://www3.nd.edu/~nmcneil/ManipulativesMcNeil%28MM211%29.pdf

University of Notre Dame. "Child's counting comprehension may depend on objects counted, study shows." ScienceDaily, 18 Apr. 2013. Web. 22 Apr. 2013. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130418154405.htm

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Bad Press??? (Part 2)

For those of you who follow our Blog: you will have read my article on “Bad Press” that can come with being a mandated reporter of child abuse.

The incident I wrote about previously, in a nut-shell….employee of the child care program knew of a child abuse situation and told her supervisor “in confidence”.  Her supervisor informed her that as a child care employee she was a mandated reporter.  Thus the supervisor had to report the situation because the employee would not.  Employee quit in anger and began spreading nasty rumors through town.  

Many of you may not have your business in a small town, so some of the small town gossip issues you don’t have to deal with.  However, parents talk to each other, no matter where you live.  So, how do you handle “bad press” when it comes to child abuse or neglect allegations? Which issues are “confidential” and which issues aren’t?

Pretty much everything surrounding an issue which would require you to contact child protective services should be considered confidential and not shared with other families in your program.  If other families become aware that there has been a situation, it might be a good time to review your mandated reporter policy with them and reassure them that you are required by law to report certain things that fall within pretty defined parameters.  Do not divulge specific information to the other families in your program.  This could open you to some potential liability.  

Never, never, never divulge the information – even to your “closest friend”.  Let families know that you respect every family’s right to privacy and you are not at liberty to discuss anything specific.  Reassure them that you tried to handle the situation with the utmost professionalism and work hard to ensure the safety and dignity of each family.

At times, you will be stuck between a rock and a hard place, so you will just have to be sure that your staff knows, understands and follows your Child Abuse Policy.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Bad Press??? YIKES!!!!

What do you do when you find out that there is a negative rumor going around town about your program?  How do you react when confronted by a concerned parent about such rumors?  What happens to your business?

First and foremost, make sure you have excellent insurance……..

Ok, so now that I know you have excellent insurance, let me give you a scenario.

A very close person to me (although she lives in a different state) runs an after school program in her VERY TINY little town where she now lives.  She is new to town….has no longstanding relationship with any patrons in town….and on top of it all is new to child care.  In the first few weeks of her new job, an employee came to her and related that they were concerned about a child’s (who was in the program) safety.  This employee had first-hand knowledge about the child since the child was like a grandchild to her.

This friend of mine listened to the situation and then carefully informed her employee that due to mandated reporting requirements, the situation had to be reported.  Per mandated reporting requirements, my friend reported the situation to the authorities.  Now, you can see where this is going because you have likely been there!

The employee immediately quit in anger and began to spread rumors throughout this tiny little town that people had better watch out or “so-and-so” will get your kids taken away by child protective services.  My friend called me and asked for my advice, since I work in the field of child care and I have been a professional social worker for many years – with extensive experience handling child welfare cases.

The first thing I asked her was; do you have a Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Policy?  Thankfully, she works for a large organization and the answer was YES! Whew!!  Next, I asked if she received her former employee’s written resignation.  No – the employee refused to speak to her much less give her a written resignation.  Ok, I said – you need to document, document, document.  Facts and only facts.  What was said, when, where, what was done, chronologically, whose direction was sought, etc. etc.

Documentation is of utmost importance in situations like these.  Keep some type of chronological notations from day to day, maybe a spiral notebook, binder, or on your computer.  It may seem monotonous (and you hope that it will be monotonous – these types of “excitement” are very stressful) but it is very important.  If you don’t normally keep a running record, if something like this comes up – begin immediately.  Note times, date, what was said, what was done, any officials you had to contact, what they told you, etc.  I cannot stress enough the importance of factual documentation.

If you don’t have a
Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Policy – check out our website for one! Then make it work for your program!

Stayed tuned for “Part 2” of this article next week.


Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Cultivating Creativity

I’ve seen various lists on the internet recently about “Ways to Stay Creative”; some with 29 ways, some with 33, etc.  They all have good suggestions, but it seems to me that some of them are a bit of a stretch and some could be changed up just a bit.
  • Write it down.  The old saying “If it’s not on paper, it’s vapor” is very true for me.  I have the occasional good idea (mostly at night), but if I don’t write it down right away, I’ll never remember it.
  • Bloom where you’re planted.  As a former military brat who moved, on average annually, I’ve seen people thrive in less-than-perfect places and people struggle in beautiful places.  It’s all about accepting where you are (geographically or otherwise) and making the best of it.
  • Don’t just think outside the box, but realize that there is no box.  “The way we’ve always done it” might just not be the best way to keep doing it.  But, at the same time, don’t just change for the sake of changing; make sure that the change is well thought out.
  • Try something different—read a book from a different genre than what you normally read, listen to a different type of music, watch a foreign or independent film.
  • Surround yourself with smart, creative people….and listen to them.  The best ideas usually come through collaboration.
  • Give yourself permission to make mistakes.  It’s hard to be innovative if you are constantly afraid of doing something wrong.  Don’t look at mistakes as failures, but as opportunities to learn.
  • And, my favorite one (which probably explains why it was common to each of the lists that I found) is to stop trying to be someone else’s idea of perfect.  Don’t be an incomplete copy of someone else, but be the absolute best version of you. 
Have fun and let your creative juices flow!