Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Managing Risk in Child Care

A couple of years ago, we were approached by a lady in Illinois who was preparing to start a child care program.  The state had a pretty new requirement for a Risk Management Plan as one of the start-up requirements.  This provider asked if we had such a plan available for sale.  My first thought was yes, we had one that we developed for our own insurance provider; it was 2 pages long.  This provider assured me that Illinois was looking for a bit more than that.  As we talked, I started to realize just why she seemed so overwhelmed by the requirement.  She sent me the specific requirements from Department of Children and Family Services.  Basically, the state of Illinois is looking for providers to think about all of the possible risks associated with operating a child care program and address those risks in a document.  The areas that must be addressed are:

  • Staffing
  • Enrolling and Discharging Children
  • Food Service
  • Indoor and Outdoor Premises
  • Indoor and Outdoor Equipment
  • Programs, Activities and Services; Transportation
  • Health and Medical
  • Emergency/Disaster Planning
  • Administration
  • Parent Communication
  • Pets

 Whew!  That’s quite a list.  No wonder she was feeling a bit stressed.

Our tactic in developing this document was to address all of the various aspects of a program.  For example, we provide specifics on infant, toddler, preschool and school-age care.  If your program doesn’t offer care for infants, you can just delete those parts of the document.  Our document is 77 pages long, but your final product will be shorter as you take out the parts that you don’t need.

What made this project really interesting was receiving a phone call from a provider in Minnesota who said that our plan covered things that she didn’t need, but then didn’t cover some things that the state of Minnesota requires.  So, of course, we studied the Minnesota requirements and wrote a Risk Management Plan (much shorter than the Illinois plan) tailored for their state. 

So, my assurance to you is that if you are looking for a very comprehensive Child Care Risk Management Plan, ours should fit your needs.  However, if you find that your state has specific requirements that are not addressed, just let me know and we will tailor a plan for your state as well.  We like to make sure that our customers are completely satisfied (and we appreciate hearing about specific requirements from various states).   Also, FYI, if we write a document for you and can make it generic so that we can sell it to other providers as well, instead of charging our consulting fees, we just charge you what the online fee of that particular document will be. 

Let me know if we can help you with something!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Phonological Memory and Early Reading

Phonological memory refers to a person’s ability to retain phonological (sound) information for a short period of time.  Difficulties with phonological memory often signal future struggles with reading and vocabulary acquisition.  Phonological memory skills can be practiced with remembering lists of words, strings of digits, multi-syllable nonsense words, sentence or story details, or multi-step directions.  Helping children improve their phonological memories is one way to help them avoid future reading problems.  And, like most things, these skills can be developed in fun ways.

  • Going to New York—Tell the child, “I’m going to New York and I packed a …”.  Name something you packed.  The child then repeats the phrase, what you packed, then adds what they packed.  (“I’m going to New York and I packed a … and a …”)  Continue the game until the list gets too long to remember.
  • Repetition—Read a book with a repetitive phrase (like “Brown Bear, Brown Bear”) and have children repeat the repetitive phrase at the appropriate time.
  • Rhythm Clapping—Clap out a rhythm and have the children repeat the rhythm.
  • Calculations—Read a string of digits from a prepared card (2-7 digits, depending upon the child’s ability) to a child.  Have the child repeat the digits to himself over and over while walking across the room to a calculator.  The child presses the buttons on the calculator in the order in which they were read.  Compare the number on the calculator to the prepared card so the child can see if he remembered the digits correctly.
  • Play Mother May I
  • Stringing Beads—Give a child a direction of what 2 colors of beads to put on a string, in order.  Increase the number of beads as the child’s ability increases.
To help children develop their phonological memories, teachers can also teach the children strategies for remembering.  For example, a 7-digit phone number is chunked into 3 digits followed by 4 digits.  Repetition, like in the Calculations game, helps to keep those digits in memory until the task can be completed.  Tapping along with “Brown Bear, Brown Bear” can provide a needed reminder.  Some children will pick up these strategies on their own and some will need to be explicitly taught the strategies.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Napping in Preschool Increases Learning

A recent study out of the University of Massachusetts Amherst confirms the importance of nap time in preschool.  Those who push for removal of nap time in favor of a more academic approach to preschool may have to take a step back and relook at the impact of midday napping on learning outcomes.

Researchers taught children a “Memory”-type (visual-spatial) game in the morning, then tested how much the children recalled that afternoon and the following day.  In one instance, the children napped on the afternoon that they were taught the game and in the second instance, they did not nap.  Overall, the children who napped performed 10% better than those who did not nap. 

In a world of increased academic pressure at earlier and earlier ages, some educators (or administrators) are trying to do away with nap time in favor of more instructional time.  While most of us who work with young children know that, for a variety of reasons, that’s a bad idea, outside pressures can sometimes result in poor practices.  Especially for publicly-funded programs, managers don’t always have a full range of decision-making authority for their programs.  This new research gives us all a bit more ammunition in the fight to protect nap time.  As research psychologist Rebecca Spencer stated, “We offer scientific evidence that the midday naps for preschoolers support the academic goals of early education.”

If you do not have a Rest Time Policy, check ours out here.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Car Seat Safety in Cold Weather

A frequently missed danger of child car safety seats rears its ugly head around this time of year.  We carefully and snugly buckle a child into a properly installed seat, yet the child is still not safe.  What’s the problem?  A nice, warm, fluffy jacket. 

SafetyBeltSafe U.S.A., a non-profit organization dedicated to child passenger safety,  issued the following warning:  “Clothing worn by children can present compression and harness routing problems. Bulky jackets and snowsuits can compress in a crash and leave the harness slack on a child, allowing excessive movement or even ejection.”  To see how much slack can be created by bulky clothing, harness a child with a bulky coat into a seat properly, then, without adjusting the harness, remove the child from the seat.  Take the child’s coat off and buckle him back into the car seat.  I was amazed at the slack created by the coat.  

The question becomes how to keep the child warm, but still safe.  The U.S. Department of Transportation recommends “Always buckle the baby in the seat first, and then place coats or blankets over the harness”.  Yes, that’s one extra step and the child might be chilly for a moment, but it is certainly better than the hazard presented by an improperly adjusted harness.

Make sure your staff knows how to properly buckle children into car seats in inclement weather by including the process in your Transportation Policy.  Also, please make sure parents are aware of this important safety information.  

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Impaired (Attempted) Pick-Up of Child

In the past couple of weeks we’ve talked about the routine release of children from care and dealing with custody orders as it relates to child release.  This week, we tackle the touchy subject of someone who comes to pick up a child, but is either intoxicated or under the influence of drugs.  The most important thing is to have a policy in place about how to handle this type of situation (before it happens) and to ensure that all staff members are fully trained on how to implement the policy.

If the person picking up the child does not have legal custody, you may not release the child to that individual.  Not even if they are on the emergency pick-up list.  Staff, preferably the Director or another member of the management team, will call the parent, notify them of the situation, and help the parent make alternate plans for the pick-up of their child.  We also notify the parent that this individual will not be granted access to our program again, so the parent must designate another emergency pick-up person.

If the impaired individual has custody of the child, you cannot deny that person access to their child.  However, you can explain your concern and ask the individual to call, or allow you to call, someone else to pick them up; another parent/guardian, someone from their emergency pick-up list, etc.  If the individual still insists on taking the child, delay them as long as possible and call the police.  Hopefully the police will arrive before the individual leaves with the child.  If you cannot delay them any longer, let them know that the police have been called and, when they arrive, you will give them as much information as possible to assist them in locating the parent (make, model and color of car, license plate number, destination, etc.).  Ideally, the knowledge that they will be reported to the police will be sufficient to keep the individual from leaving the facility with the child.  

Regardless of the situation, the individual will probably be pretty upset with you, but the priority has to be the safety of the child.  If you don’t have a policy that addresses release of a child to a seemingly impaired individual, check ours out here.