Germ-y Daycare

21 Feb

Letterbalm Sick ToddlerDear LetterBalm: I run a legal daycare out of my home, and I’m careful to toe the line on regulations and responsibilities because I’m conscious of the little ones in my care. But there’s one mother who has dropped off her sick child at the facility twice this winter so far, and, before I know it, everybody’s infected (including me and my two assistants). We have rules and policies, and we ask every parent to sign off on them when they enroll their child, including not bringing a sick kid to the facility. What can I say and do to stop this?

–Sniffles and Sneezes

This is what happens with the old “drop and run.” Daycare workers know it well: A beleaguered parent drops off a sick kid and bolts, unfairly leaving the daycare facility to deal with sniffles, a runny nose, diarrhea or worse. Experienced caregivers know you have to give teeth to the rules. Signing off on them without enforcement isn’t enough. Ms. L.B. suggests a three-prong attack, if you aren’t doing it already: First, meet all parents outside every day to evaluate the kids; sometimes you can identify a sick child (lethargic? whining? clearly miserable?) before he or she steps out of the car or walks through the facility door. Second, require a parent to name at least one trusted backup adult with emergency contact information when they register their child (contact that individual to see they are OK with this). And, third, use timely reminders such as this one, which you e-mail to all parents and give them a hard copy as well:

Dear Parent:

This has been a harsher winter than usual, and we want to remind all parents to please keep your sick child at home. We’ve had to deal with several bouts of illness that have infected other children and our caregivers alike, when parents disregarded this house rule.

We have inaugurated a policy whereby we are meeting all children outside our facility every day to determine whether they are well enough to attend daycare. We reserve the right to refuse entry to any child we believe is unwell. We know that this will be a hardship for parents – we remind you be sure your backup contact is always available to take your sick child for the day. As you know, if your child is ill during the day, we will contact that person to pick up him or her at the facility, and we will notify you.

We thank you for your understanding. Bringing a sick child to daycare is unfair to everyone, the children most of all.

Sincerely,

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