Although we call it “routine”, we have to always remain aware that we cannot take the release of children from our care as routine. Release a child improperly and we could potentially have a life-threatening nightmare of a situation. Of course, most of the time the release is without incident because we have already done the work of confirming who is picking up the child. We have developed a relationship with the parent (or individual who typically picks the child up), greet them by name when they arrive, and give them a brief overview of the child’s day before seeing them off and wishing them a good evening. So, even though this has become routine, it is only through the work we did in advance.
The challenge comes into this situation when we have a different staff member in the classroom or when a different person comes to pick up the child. In either case, the situation is the same; our staff member must be assured that the child is being released appropriately. If we have a different staff member in the room, either as a substitute or as a new staff member, ideally the other teacher in the room knows the parent and can provide an introduction to the two. Within a few days, the new staff member should be able to easily (yet absolutely) recognize that parent.
However, if none of the staff members know the person picking up the child and know that the person is authorized by the parent to pick the child up, we have to check our own emergency cards and the individual’s identification. The emergency card will tell the staff member if that person is authorized to pick up the child. The individual’s identification (photo identification) will tell us if the person is who they claim to be.
I have had a few situations in which someone was offended at having to show identification, or was upset that they had to leave the program and return to their car to pick up their identification. But, in almost every case, when I explained to them why we were so cautious, they appreciated the concern we showed for the child. In the rare case where the individual remained upset, I spoke with the parent the next time they dropped off or picked up the child and asked them to remind their emergency contacts what we require to release a child and why we are so cautious. In every case, the parent appreciated our policies and agreed to speak with their friend or family member.
One caution is that the release of the child to someone we “know” must be based upon absolute identification. We can’t have a staff member say “I thought I recognized” the person. Our bottom line must always be, when there is ANY doubt, check the emergency card and the photo identification.
If you don’t already have a clear policy defining the terms upon which a child can be released from your facility, check ours out here. Next week we will talk about how custody orders impact our release of children.