Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Reporting Suspected Child Abuse

Last week we talked about identifying potential child abuse.  This week, we’ll address reporting suspected abuse.

The first point is to remember that we are child care professionals, we are not investigators.  Our job is to know how to identify signs of potential abuse and to report those signs objectively.  We then allow the trained investigators to do their jobs.  Just as I get upset when people have the “any monkey can do it” attitude toward my job (you know, the “you have a child, so you can be a child care provider” attitude), I have to understand that I am not trained to conduct a proper investigation. 

The second point in reporting suspected abuse is to realize that we all are mandated to do it.  And, even if it wasn’t a legal mandate, we are duty-bound by our decision to spend our lives caring for children.  As I tell my staff, child abuse is rarely a one-time thing.  Your report may be the only thing that stands between that child and years of abuse.  No, filing a report isn’t easy, but it must be done.

The third point is knowing the proper way to make a report and ensuring that your staff knows the proper way as well.  This varies from state to state and possibly county to county.  It can even vary from year to year, depending upon your area.  And, if you have flexibility on how the reporting is done, you need to make sure that you have a policy in place that ensures your staff knows exactly how YOU want it done (within legal limits).  In one of my former positions, as the Director, I was required to make the report.  Then, the following year, in the same program, the regulations changed and the individual who noticed the indicator had to make the report personally.  This was very difficult for one of my staff members, but she had to do it.  As her Director, I could no longer do it for her.  All I could do was talk her through it, hold her hand while she made the call, and hold her while she cried afterwards.  Again, it’s not easy, but our top priority must be protecting children, not staying in our own comfort zones.

If you don’t already have a policy in place to make sure that your staff knows how to report suspected child abuse, check ours out here.


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Identifying Child Abuse

As I was driving down the highway over the weekend, I was struck by a billboard with the message “Buying a teen for sex is child abuse. Turning a blind eye is neglect.”  I was stunned to see the sign.  Not stunned that sex trafficking (or any sort of child abuse or neglect) exists, but stunned that we need a sign to tell us that it’s abuse.  I suppose I just thought that would be pretty self-evident.  But…as I think back over my career with children and families, I probably shouldn’t be so surprised.  Recognizing and reporting child abuse and/or neglect has always seemed to be problematic.  We’ll talk about reporting child abuse next week, but for this week, let’s start with recognition. 

As child care providers, we’re required to report suspected child abuse, so we must know what it looks like.  We also have to ensure that everyone who works for us can identify suspected child abuse.  There are both physical and behavioral signs of possible child abuse.


  • Unexplained injuries—especially one shaped like a hand or a familiar object, or in an unusual place, like the middle of the back.
  • Constant hunger.
  • Poor hygiene or unattended physical problems.
  • Inappropriate dress for weather conditions.


  • Behavioral extremes - aggressive/withdrawn.
  • Unusual wariness of adult contact.
  • Afraid to go home.

While these signs do not mean that a child is definitely in a dangerous situation, they are indicators that need professional follow-up.  If you don’t already have a policy in place to make sure that your staff knows how to recognize the indicators of potential child abuse, check ours out here.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Supervising Children

What is appropriate child supervision in child care?  Frequently, your answer to that question depends upon who you are and where you are.  Some have a potentially dangerous loose definition and some have an unrealistically stringent definition.  In California, where I am, the requirement for supervision of young children is that it be both auditory and visual.  Fair enough, except when I was told by a Licensing Analyst that I would be cited if a child was injured in the second that a caregiver’s eyes were closed during a sneeze.  Um, I’m not quite sure what to do with that.  But, at the same time, I’ve also had employees who seemed to believe that being in the general proximity of a child and chatting with a coworker constituted child supervision.  

While there are varying definitions, the one thing that is consistent is that appropriate supervision is a key factor in keeping children safe.  There are two critical components in supervising children.  The first is ensuring that each classroom has at least two caregivers in ratio at all times.  One person simply cannot provide supervision to a group of children.  The second issue is training staff on appropriate supervision.  What does it look and sound like?  Where should your body and eyes be in various situations?  If you don’t already have a training program in place to make sure your staff knows how to provide appropriate supervision, KidCentric is now making our staff training guideline available.  It even includes diagrams of proper and improper supervision to make things extra clear.  Check it out at:  http://daycaretools.com/DaycareProducts.aspx#Personnel

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Collecting Child Care Fees

If child care providers, in general, have a fault, it’s that we can be saps for a sad story.  We are caregivers by nature, so we tend to want to make things okay for everyone.  Usually that’s a pretty good characteristic, but not so much when we’re talking about collecting fees. 

For some reason, there are parents who believe that their child care fees are one of their lowest financial priorities.  The mortgage must be paid, the car payment must be made, the gym membership can’t be given up, and the child care fees will be paid if there is money left at the end of the month.  And, you know, things come up and the payment will just have to be a little late.

In our business, we have very little recourse if fees aren’t paid.  We can’t repossess the care we have provided like someone could repossess a house or car.  So, we have to be more like the gym; no pay no entry.  Period.  

The only way this works is if we have firm financial policies in place.  We have to have a rate sheet that explains precisely what we charge for what services. We have to have a solid contract that spells out what services we are providing for what fees, when those fees are due (prior to care being provided), and what will happen if those fees are not paid on time. And, of course, we have to enforce those policies, every single time.  

Because we cannot repossess our 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 demonstrating financial responsibility for our staff and our programs.