Tuesday, February 28, 2012

I am drowning in paperwork

Wow. I don't even know what to say about what is going on at my workplace right now with the couple of hours of a government 'validator' (kind of like an inspector) being there. It's like a nightmare. This is for our three year re-accreditation for child care. Basically it's a program that was set up about 9 years ago for centers in alberta to start being rewarded for the work they do that is 'above and beyond' the basic guidelines set out by the alberta govt. It's also a govt funded program, just so you know. meaning of course, tax payers. It is voluntary to join but we knew right from the start that it would NOT realllllly be voluntary in the future. Our prediction was and is that eventually this will be merged with the current licensing standards and all become one.

It's getting there. First off, after centers signed up for it (or not), the program started advertising around the province that children should be in an 'accredited' center. That is blow number one - if you opted NOT to become accredited, your center may be viewed as sub-par and parents may not want to put their children in. Even though all non-accredited programs are still inspected by govt agents and have to follow the same basic rules and regulations of accredited centers, the parents were being taught via ads and information packets that accredited means better. In a recent campaign booklet document for Choosing Childcare (directed at parents), one of the first things in the parent Checklist is to ask if the center is Accredited. I rest my case on that issue.

Next, a bunch of funding was transferred over to accreditation. For example, staff wage enhancement and quality support funding and technical support funding, and I think professional development funding. All of those used to be available to all centers and staff as long as they had passed their most recent licensing inspections. But now, you get a lower amount of staff wage enhancement if you are not accredited (about half the amount), and you dont get quality support funding at all. I'm not sure if you even get professional development funding if you are not accredited. I don't know for sure because we are accredited and were one of the first 150 centers in the whole province to get this done, so the option has been open. But the other things are listed in charts with accredited vs non-accredited (or pre-accredited) program status.

I know, you are probably bored now, but this just keeps getting more constrictive. Each time we have our accreditation (yearly updates and 3 year visits), the Validator finds a whole list of new things we need to do. It quite literally drives us insane. At our last one in 2009 we passed with flying colors and made sure to maintain those standards and improve on their suggestions since then. I was actually excited to have this round of re-accreditation happen because we have a ton of new stuff, I spent the last 6 MONTHS preparing copies of all the documents and arranging it so the validator could find it easily today, etc. I was ready and sure we would have it in the bag for an easy inspection.

Apparently I was wrong. After only 10 mins, I already had a list of mundane stuff to add to our policy books. We have to write a policy for literally everything you could possibly imagine happening in the center. It is unreal. After less than an hour, I had a list of 10 things to add!! OMFG. I already increased our policy book by 13 pages this fall when reading the documents sent from the govt. But I was not specific enough according to the validator today.

For example, we now have to have a concrete written policy explaining exactly what each staff member does and checks when they walk in the door. And a checklist to sign. Like when the first person arrives, she has to walk around with a checklist marking off that all of the plug socket covers are in place, no broken toys, no toys left on the floor, etc etc. Every safety thing you could think of, and then initial them all. That would mean arriving about 15 mins early for her shift which would mean working overtime every single day because of the ratios we have to adhere to for the most basic and important regulations. So guess what? That would mean the parents have to pay a higher fee because of 5 extra hours of work per month each for 2 staff members (oh did I mention the night person has to do the same thing???). We already close 15 mins before the last person's shift is over so that she can do the cleaning and other support things that are not to be done while children are present. Now she will have to do all that (mark it off on the checklist) and then go around checking all of the outdoor equipment for damages, indoor stuff, etc and tick it off on the chart, and then finally go home. It's really getting mental.Or we could close a full half hour before her shift is over and that puts at least 3 parents out of luck who do not finish until 530 (we close at 545)... so closing at 530 in order to do all this paperwork and avoid overtime pay would not work for them and they would have to leave. We are not allowed to do paperwork while we are actually WITH a group of children, which is a standard basic regulation, and the only other way out of all this is to hire two people to work 3 hours each at the start and end of the day so the rest of us can do all this crazy paperwork - and that will cost the parents a fee increase as well. We would like to avoid that but these new standards make it almost impossible. And I have to write a policy detailing all of that in our book *sigh*. Its pointless really. Checking them off on a chart and writing a policy in the book does not guarantee that it is done anyway.

In my opinion, the BEST way for parents to ensure their child is in a safe place is to look at it themselves. Walk in unannounced on their lunch break, walk around the center when dropping off the child and picking them up, and see if you spot a pile of dirt in the corner, or watch that the staff washes their hands after wiping a kid's nose or helping them in the bathroom, or whatever. It's their child after all. They should be the ones making sure their child is safe. Having a checklist available does not mean that any of the things on it were actually done, it just means the person filling it out knows how to write their initials. Using your eyeballs and gut instinct is what tells you it is safe and healthy for your child. But instead, we have a govt inspector running around, coming back in the morning, to make sure FOR you. Is that what you want? As a parent? A person to show up once every 3 years (for validators) or twice a year (for inspectors) and that will be the guarantee your child is safe? how about a parent bringing their kid a few mins early in the morning and sitting down to watch the child, as well as watch the workers. That's a pretty good idea. Look around for yourself to see if the plug covers are installed, ask when the last fire drill was, ask your child what we do in a fire drill, etc. But no, it's left up to inspectors - and then, to make sure their job does not become obsolete, every year there are new procedures and policies to be added and written and the center will NOT get their funding and will LOSE their accredited status if they do not comply. Wow. That is just unreal.

I have worked at my place for 17 years this month. I know instinctively what to watch for and check. If something is out of place, I fix it immediately. My boss has been there 24 years. The other girls have been there 9 years and 13 years. We are not idiots. We have year after year of awesome inspection reports (the only things we are ever dinged on is stuff the parents are not doing like not signing their kids in and out each day in The Book, or a burnt out lightbulb one time). 24 years of exemplary inspections, 24 years of parents being happy with the center for the most part, 24 years of long term staff, parents bringing younger siblings and cousins and best friends' kids to the center, excellent word-of-mouth advertising 99% of the time,,,,, and we are at risk of losing our accredited status if I don't go in early tomorrow morning and type my hands off to add these policies in writing. OMFG. REally?? So we could be the shittiest daycare on the planet in person, but have perfect policy books and perfect faked checklists and keep our status? REALLY?

My bf says they are all just trying to keep their jobs. And I believe him. There is no other reason that fits my mind about how we can have a glowing report one year and then have 50 things to improve the center in the next, then 50 more after that,,, again and again. What will it be in 3 more years? They want centers to be the best they can be (their words, not mine) but that is a lie. They Don't want you to be the best because they do not ever LET you be the best. You can work your hiney off to offer more and more things for the children every year and keep the longest papertrail ever imagined - but it will never be enough. They will always find something else. This year's focus is on paperwork and written policy. Last time the focus was on what images appeared on the walls and in toys and activities to represent different cultures, before that was images and books to represent different families - you get my drift. We painted the whole center, bought new tables and chairs, bought new decorations and books up the wazoo - new cultural items, you name it - we got it. And none of it has been glanced at. Wow. I don't know what to say about that.

So for the next three years we will bend over backwards to make sure our policies are kept up to date and clear and specific and they won't even look at them - I am betting you. They will have found a new focus to pick us apart with until we just give up and lose all our funding and wage enhancement. And the parents will have to pay for it again - literally - to make up for the lost wages and funding. This woman did not even look at any of our posters, images, books, toys etc to check that it was up to standards. She is there checking paperwork. Oh what fun. And what a crock.

All you taxpayers are paying for her hotel, food, gasoline, daily wages, and other expenses while she is in our city for two weeks doing several centers, and there are literally dozens of people across the province doing this every single day in various regions - do you feel that your money is being well spent? Do you think it is really ensuring that the leaders of tomorrow, today's children, are safe and happy? Is it really doing that? Well it's your money - you decide.

Oh wait, that's wrong - THEY decide.

2 comments:

  1. I don't think anything they are doing in the Province is done well and this just proves it as another example.

    To not check your equipment, schedule, enhancements and simply you paperwork, an insult. It's obviously NOT about the kids but is about the bureaucracy.
    This is simply so if anything happens to 1 child in a childcare facility, they can say "we have strict GUIDELINES"...
    ...good luck!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks! I will just smile and nod and type in everything she wants me to and be done with it. I actually did tell her that I have worked here 17 years (she looked surprised) and that all of this stuff is just common sense and we do it automatically, but I would definitely add them to the policy book. She said if I do it before she leaves at noon tomorrow, she can give us half a mark. Oh thanks. It's like a test - you have to get a certain percent in each category and if you don't - you have to go on probation for a short term and get one more chance to get it all 'right'. It drives us insane.

    But i am equally as frightened about what could happen if canada goes ahead and does this $7/day daycare plan. I am in a private center right now (though you cannot run as fully private because you have to be licensed by the province or are running illegally). If it went to the quebec-style system, the majority of money going into the center would be handled by the govt and they would have even MORE say in what we do. Our wages, supplies, activities, field trips, etc. You name it - they 'own it' if we go to that system. That is seriously frightful and we already decided we would close our doors or attempt to run as a full fee center (which would be a shame for our low income families). I cant even imagine what the strict guideline garbage would be like in a fully govt funded center.YIKES.

    ReplyDelete

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