Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Enterovirus 68

As child care providers, one of our greatest responsibilities is protecting the health and safety of the children in our care.  We have Health and Safety Policies in place to define what that looks like, but every once in a while, we are thrown a curve.  That’s what’s happening right now. 

As cold and flu season gets going, we now have Enterovirus 68 thrown into the mix.  You’ve probably seen it on television as it seems to be raging throughout the country right now with infections reported in 45 states.  Enterovirus 68 is a respiratory virus that is very similar to a common cold.  Mild symptoms may include fever, runny nose, sneezing, cough, and body and muscle aches. 

As child care providers, we need to realize that children are most at-risk of becoming infected with this virus and the age group most commonly infected are children between the ages of 4 and 5.  The biggest problem with Enterovirus 68 is that it can quickly become quite serious, especially for children with asthma.  We have to make sure that we have appropriate care plans in place for any children with asthma.

Signs of distress in a child, such as difficulty talking, audible wheezing or bluish lip color call for immediate medical intervention. 

Since Enterovirus 68  is a respiratory virus, it is found in secretions such as saliva, nasal mucus, or sputum.  Other than watching for signs of illness in children, the best way to protect children and your staff is to follow your already established Standard Precautions, such as:
  • Wash hands frequently using soap and water.
  • Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Disinfect frequently touched surfaces, such as toys and doorknobs.
  • Avoid contact with people who are sick (by making sure that those who are sick are excluded from care).

With conscientious care, you can help keep the children in your care and your staff healthy.  And, if anyone becomes ill, you know how to identify when it may be becoming more serious and when to seek medical assistance.

And, yes, the CDC is now investigating whether there is a link between Enterovirus 68 and the unexplained symptoms of paralysis that some children have experienced in the past several months.  Keep your eyes open for more information on that possible link.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Use of Social Media in Child Care

Social media can be a very effective and efficient way to get information out to parents and guardians quickly.  For the most part, gone are the days of printed newsletters, email (for the most part), or even many written notices.  This reality poses special challenges for child care programs.

Social media can be a very useful marketing tool (for example, a Facebook page for your child care program).  It can be a quick tool for parental communication.  It can even be a way to help families keep grandparents, aunt, uncles, etc. “in touch” with the children in your care.  Social media can lead to a whole set of challenges, liabilities and unforeseen conflicts as well.

If you are going to use any social media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Team Snap, etc.) you need to have some basic understanding and policies in place.

1.       You need to fully understand the security settings.  How do you “invite” people? How do you block people? How do you keep the general public creepos off your page and without access to your photos?  How do you delete someone who has left your program or proven themselves incapable of following your policies?  What is your process for employees who don’t follow your policies?

2.       If you are using a website, it is a good idea if you have time to put into it and keep it current.  It is very poor marketing if your “current” tab takes people to a calendar that is 2 years old…or even a year old.  Websites are easier now than ever to set up and manage, but you must make yourself take the time to manage it.  It can be a wonderful communication tool if you continually keep relevant and current information /updates there.  You will teach your parents to use the website for the most important information, and they can access it any time day or night.  However, if you let it get behind, it communicates to people that you are disorganized and/or it’s a useless tool.  Neither message is good for business.

3.       If you use social media and use photographic images of children in your care – you need to take great care in getting written approval from parents before putting their children’s images online.  There may be individuals whom the parents do not want to have access to pictures of their children.  There may be “no contact” orders in place – and potentially – you could inadvertently identify where children under protective orders are attending.  A random example:  I have a life-long friend who is a reporter and who lives in a foreign country.  While visiting her and her family, I took pictures of various landmarks, her children (with my children), and other nice moments of our trip.  I posted my musings to Facebook and “tagged” her.  She immediately emailed me and asked me to take the pictures down and not to link her in future posts.  She was working on a very delicate news piece that was ongoing for about 4 years in international media – and she had received death threats and threats against her family.  I had absolutely NO idea!  Anyway, suffice it to say, I took the pictures down immediately and have never linked her again.  We just never know what might be going on with a family – even if we see them every day or have known them for our whole lives. 

4.       If you use social media that allows members of the page to make comments that are immediately “viewable” by everyone (like Facebook), you need to have a strictly enforced policy of respect and appropriateness in place – and require your families to abide by the policies.  It will destroy your program about as fast as anything if you have a couple of parents calling each other names via your page.

5.       You need to set parameters for your staff on who is allowed to post and when they are allowed to post to the site/page.  Our policies are clear that it can only happen during classroom planning time – our staff are not allowed to have their cell phones on them during work time – and they can post to the page from the program computer, not from their cell phones.  There are a myriad of reasons for this: a. I don’t want staff paying attention to their phones instead of the children in their direct care.  b.  If employees use their personal cell phones for work-related tasks there can be issues that arise.  c. I require that their posts are approved prior to posting….spelling, grammar, content, etc.  all very important when communicating with parents from an educational entity. 

With all of this said….social media is the way of the future – at least for now. 


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Child Care Dress Code

Perhaps you have been having a periodic or persistent problem with employees coming to work in clothing and attire that you feel are not appropriate for your program.  We’ve all had that employee who thinks that a strapless dress is a good idea, even when they are working with children who tug and pull on clothing all day.  We’ve all had that employee who wears footwear that is dangerous or uncomfortable, so they are continuously limping around or taking their shoes off and on instead of caring for children.  We’ve all probably had the employee who wears flip flops to work in the middle of winter and then doesn’t want to go outside with the children.  Ok, maybe those of you in the south don’t have that problem, but up north – it can be a big issue.

Talking to employees about dress code is sometimes not easy and can make everyone uncomfortable.  For example, I had to tell an employee once that a parent had called me because her very young son (just starting to talk) was indicating “breasts” with sign language and the word “ta ta’s” when referring to his teacher.  She wore sun dresses most of the time – many of which were strapless and all of them showed more of her cleavage than even she realized.  Needless to say, it was an embarrassing conversation for myself and the teacher.

Appropriate dress --shirts, pants, shoes and adornments—often need to be explained to employees.  Skirts so short that the teacher cannot bend over or sit down.  Pants that show cracks when seated on the floor.  Shirts that allow children intimate views of what is underneath…. None of us want to get a call from a parent with a concern about how our staff dresses.  It doesn’t demonstrate professionalism. 

Some facilities require uniforms –such as “scrubs”, or partial uniforms – such as aprons, or a logo shirt, or something along those lines.  There are many different ways to create a respectful and safe dress code; one that respects the human body and keeps children safe from hazards from choking.  If you are interested in taking a look at our Dress Code Policy for facilities that do not have uniforms, check out the new addition to the website.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Back-to-School/Back-to-Child Care

As kids are heading back to school, we can use some public school ideas to assess and improve our child care programs. 

Most schools host a Back-to-School Night.  This is a great way to get together with parents, introduce any changes to your policies and procedures, and give parents a chance to talk with you and their child’s teacher about your program.  You can take this time to invite parents to participate in the program throughout the year by volunteering in the classroom, reading to the children, or working on some projects at home. 

The beginning of the school year  is also a good time to make sure that you have updated paperwork on all of the children in the program—correct phone numbers, up-to-date immunizations, etc.  Ideally, you will also have some sort of portfolio and/or developmental checklist on each student so that the classroom teachers can plan appropriate learning activities for the year.

Along with the developmental checklists, you can take this time to make sure that your program is developmentally appropriate, with a goal of developing self-motivated, active learners.  But, part of that developmental appropriateness of your program will include down time for the children, whether it be outside time for them to run around and get fresh air or just unprogrammed inside time.  While your program will include specific learning goals for each child, each one should also have some daily down time to just relax and gather their thoughts.

Even though most of us run programs that operate year-round, back-to-school can be a good reminder to make sure our house is in order for another year.


Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Early Math—Making the Time

For the past couple of weeks, we’ve been talking about a newly-released guide from the US Department of Education Institute of Education Sciences entitled Teaching Math to Young Children.  They provide 5 recommendations for teaching math to young children.  The first recommendations are to “teach number and operations using a developmental progression”, “teach geometry, patterns, measurement, and data analysis using a developmental progression,” to “use progress monitoring to ensure that math instruction builds on what each child knows,” and to “teach children to view and describe their world mathematically.” This week, we will talk about the fifth and final recommendation, to “dedicate time each day to teaching math, and integrate math instruction throughout the school day.”

Up to this point, we have seen the numbers, operations, and concepts children need to understand to help them explore and explain their world, how to make sure that each student is acquiring these concepts and making sure they can apply these concepts to real life.  We now move to our own awareness of the use of math throughout the curriculum and making sure that we seize opportunities to teach math whenever we can.

The recommended strategies for setting aside dedicated time for teaching math daily and integrating math instruction throughout the school day include:
  • Have a set plan for daily math instruction.  This can be done in both large groups and small groups.
  • Include math in routines and daily activities.  During morning circle time, we can discuss “We have 8 boys here today and 10 girls here.  We have 18 children all together.”
  • Point out math across the curriculum.  In a science lesson, we can find and describe patterns we find in nature.  In art, we can talk about what shapes we find in a particular work of art.
  • Create a math-rich environment.  Include items like blocks, foam shapes, different colored beads and cubes, measuring materials (ruler, scale, measuring cups), and sorting bins.
  • Play math games.

For more information and suggestions on implementing these recommendations, check out the guide at: http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/wwc/pdf/practice_guides/early_math_pg_111313.pdf#page=18