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Selecting a Childcare Center That Will Provide a Safe and Healthy Environment For Children
Choosing a child care center is one of the most important decisions that working parents will make that will help ensure their health, safety, and overall well-being while they are away. Thousands of children are treated in emergency rooms each year, excluding those cases of abuse or neglect in child care centers or child care homes. Sadly, some of those children will lose their lives.
There are precautions that can be taken to help ensure that the child will be properly cared for while the parent is at work. The first question parents should ask is whether the child care center or child care home has an open door policy. If the answer is no, that provider should not be selected. Next, parents should ask whether the prospective provider is licensed to operate a child care center or home by the state’s Department of Child Care Licensing and that the certification is current.
Check that staff are trained on bloodborne pathogens. For diseases such as AIDS, hepatitis B, etc., and antibiotic-resistant strains of various infections, ensure that child care workers always wear plastic gloves when changing diapers and performing first aid, and that gloves and diapers are disposed of in separate trash containers. labeled bodily fluids’. All trash cans must have plastic bags inside and locking lids. All waste must be taken out at the end of each day.
Parents should not be afraid to ask to see the license and the most recent inspection date. Find out how many infants, toddlers, and older children they are licensed for and how many children are currently being cared for. Make sure employees have a background check by the local police department and state investigative agency. Health and human service agencies and local police departments will usually submit a request for a background check on behalf of a parent for a nominal fee.
Parents should also find out if child care workers are trained on child abuse and neglect and state reporting requirements for suspected child abuse. With the increasing number of cases of domestic violence and abductions by non-custodial parents and other caregivers, parents should find out whether the doors are locked during the hours the center is open for operation and how the child care provider is selecting only approved individuals. Pick up the child and who can and can’t pick up the child if they have a form to sign?
Other training staff should have is on positive discipline, nutrition, child development, how to prepare and store food, food allergies and foodborne illnesses, and proper storage and handling of food. CPR, other CPR, choking, and personnel who care for infants, toddlers, and preschool-age children have been certified by the local American Red Cross, hospital, or other person or agency to be instructors. Ensure that the center or private childcare home has sufficient staff to care for the number of children.
Walk to a childcare center or childcare home, with outdoor play areas, and a kitchen where meals are prepared. Make sure cleaning supplies and other hazardous materials are stored in containers with tight fitting lids and spray bottles are closed and everything is kept in a locked cabinet out of reach of children, and surfaces are clean. Many accidents in child care centers occur when children are accidentally exposed to toxic materials because someone forgot to properly store cleaning supplies or failed to return them to a locked cabinet.
To ensure the safety of their child, parents wipe down tables with warm soapy water after meals and other cleaning materials that may be more toxic are used only to wipe down tables, cupboards and bathrooms after leaving the childcare center or home. Off for the day and then a secondary wipe down with warm water only. Also look around and make sure electrical outlets have safety covers to prevent children from sticking things into the sockets and getting shocked.
Outdoor play areas should include equipment of appropriate height for young children to reduce the risk of injury from falls. Check that there is enough space between pieces of equipment, that the play area is completely enclosed by a locking gate and that there are no splinters, jagged wires, etc. Children may be injured.
Find out if staff go out with children to observe and monitor their safety and well-being. If possible, outdoor play areas should have a thick covering of wood chips or soft rubber matting under the equipment. (Wood chips or rubber mats are helpful but not necessary because they can be an expensive purchase, especially for a private child care home). Larger childcare centers should keep items such as playground equipment and trikes used by older children separate from equipment for children under five.
The fire and evacuation emergency plan, floor plan and emergency contact numbers should be posted on a wall or bulletin board where they can be easily seen if necessary. Depending on the area of the country where the parents live, providers should have plans for hurricanes, floods, hurricanes, and other natural disasters. Ask staff if children have been talked to about what to do if there is a fire on site and if fire drills are regularly scheduled.
How a child care provider stores medications is also important to the health of all children. Parents should ask the provider how the medication should be stored refrigerated, if there is a first aid kit that includes ipecac, and if the medication is kept in a closed cabinet or box and stored out of reach of children. Ask to see dates on first aid supplies and where medications are stored.
To ensure that children are not exposed to any risks from medications, parents should try and schedule their child’s medication at home. Of course, if the child has a medical condition such as diabetes or asthma, this may not be possible. Make sure the child care provider stores each child’s medication in a separate zip loc bag with the child’s name on the bag as an extra precaution. Parents should also check to see if the provider has posted any allergies the child has to medications, food, etc. where other parents cannot see the child’s name and making sure the staff has easy access to the list.
With the increase in unsafe toys and the recent recall of hundreds of foreign-made toys due to lead paint, choking hazards, etc., parents should ask child care providers if they have a current and updated list of visibly recalled products. A reminder not to buy potentially dangerous children’s toys and other products, including infant formula. If the provider does not have a list, parents can request that they download the list and get one as it can be printed from the Internet.
Safety gates should be placed firmly in front of stairways, kitchen and laundry doors, basements, porches, utility areas or other open spaces. Make sure basement doors have safety locks that are sufficiently out of reach of children and that cupboards, refrigerators, oven doors and microwaves have child safety locks. Check to make sure the cords aren’t looped, so there’s no chance of dangling.
For infants, child care providers must have cribs with a certification safety seal, slats no higher than two and three-eighths of an inch, and mattresses must fit snugly. Ask providers how babies are placed in cribs to sleep, making sure they are placed on their backs without pillows or comforters.
Once a child care center or home has been chosen and the child is attending, parents need to be sensitive to any changes in their child’s behavior. If a child visits a provider, staff person, or child care center, parents should follow up by asking the child succession questions and scheduling a meeting to discuss any concerns with the center or home operator. If a child continues to be afraid, cry or scream and clings to a parent or other caregiver, parents may consider looking for another child care home or center.
Parents cannot do much to ensure that their child, or the child of a friend or relative, will be cared for in a healthy and safe childcare environment. These guidelines will help you choose the best provider and help parents feel less stressed at work. A checklist can be created to help monitor the child care setting the child comes into contact with.
As an early childhood education consultant I sometimes had to supervise a child care center or a private child care home. The guidelines set forth in this article are things I have observed and trained with. A parent can never be too careful when choosing a childcare provider.
Copyright 2009 by Jerry DeRose
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