Saturday, March 17, 2012

Childcare - Do not let the govt in!!

I wrote this in a forum and could not be bothered to re-write for my blog so I will just copy and paste:


Just a 'warning' from personal experience up in Canada about what can happen if you expect the govt to watch over your children more than you yourself do (or should). I work in childcare and have done for over 20 years, 17 of them being at the same preschool/daycare center. We have jumped through every govt hoop thrown at us (in my province, it is illegal to look after more than 6 children without being a Licensed and Inspected Daycare). That rule has been there for eons, since before I started in the field - but it has become far worse and I really do not think many parents realize just how much control the govt gains when they pass the reins from themselves to 'officials'. I understand the reason behind most rules and regulations - but at the end of the day, parents themselves should be able to figure out if a center/dayhome/sitter is good for their child. Show up unexpectedly, take the time to look around every single day for a couple minutes instead of being late for work and throwing your child in the door before dashing back out (which an extremely high percentage of parents do these days), etc. If it's dirty and gross you WILL see it if you actually look - you should not need the govt to show up every 6 months to check it for you. You are there every day. If your child is unhappy, you should be able to tell if you pay attention and listen, or watch for certain cues, or like I said above - show up unexpectedly to visit and hang out (most daycare centers should have an open door policy, it's your child afterall. If they don't - find another place!!). It really should be easy. But parents over the years have screamed and yelled at the govt to inspect more, regulate more, be the overseer, etc and I can tell you right now that it is literally strangling childcare centers to the point of them wanting to close their doors and give up - if that keeps happening, you won't have anywhere to take your child one day. It's important to think about that.

I am writing this because today my center was told we did not pass our 'Accreditation' inspection. Accreditation started in about 2005 in my province as a way for all centers to be working 'above and beyond' the basic rules and regs set out by the govt - but it too is a govt body, separately. Parents welcomed this idea and today we got the letter of doom. We were very upset because we have bent over backwards for YEARS to keep this up, and I literally spent the last 6 months doing extra paperwork every single day to bring us up to even more 'new standards' and we failed. That means a loss of funding, loss of wage enhancement - and if we cannot win our appeal, that means our parents will have to very suddenly pay about another $100 a month on top of their current fees so that we can keep running. I make a couple of bucks above minimum wage, so it's not like I am being greedy. And it's not like we wanted wage enhancement - we are forced to take it, as in it is deposited into the center's bank account each month - IF we are accredited. When this process started, wage enhancement was given to everyone no matter what - but the powers-that-be changed it to accredited centers a few years ago. It is out of our control. We either follow the rules or we have to give up and close down - OR charge the parents heeps more money, which directly affects them and may cause some to have to give up their job and stay home, or find a new center that they might not even like, but is the only one that has spaces...... What wonderful choices courtesy of the govt AND people who demand the govt step in.

I do not know if many parents understand what they are setting off when they write letters or place phone calls to the govt to ask them for more regulations, I really don't. We failed because my boss no longer has written proof that she checked her staff's references (we have all worked there more than 10 years each so we did a paperwork purge awhile back, and reference proof was never needed before now anyway). We failed because we do not do a daily programming calendar for each of the three groups. Why don't we? Because parents NEVER look at it. And I really do mean never. I can think of two parents in the past 5 years who actually stopped, occasionally, to look at the daily calendars to see what each group is up to. All we have been doing is one monthly calendar with a daily theme written in - we failed our Accreditation because of that. But parents do not actually LOOK at this, even though many have apparently expressed to the govt that they want centers to do this. Now the govt wants us to write a daily detailed program including everybook we plan to read, song we plan to sing, activity, etc for EACH Day. But parents do not read it, so why waste staff hours working on this, totaling roughly 230 pages a year, times 3 groups,,, 600+ daily lists that no one will read?

We failed because we do not have a written daily communication book for each parent. Why don't we? Because we cannot even get all 21 parents to sign their own child in and out each day. There are some that do, but too many that do not. They don't read newsletters (only about 25% of parents read school/daycare newsletters on average), they do not return field trip forms on time, they do not read big signs posted around the center to remind of field trips, holidays, special days, etc. they don't read that stuff and certainly do not take the time to read and sign a communication book (not to mention the fact that the original govt body tells us NOT to do paperwork while we are with a group of children, so I'm not exactly sure when we are supposed to write in a communication book!).... We failed because of those things. all things that parents have asked the govt to be in control of at one time or another - and all things that a parent can easily do and ask about themselves.

Our center and others (esp smaller, more family-oriented ones) are drowning under so much paperwork, they are considering closing down. That is more people out of work, like myself, a mother of 3, and tons of parents without childcare so their own jobs are put at risk. All because of this big call for ''The Govt" to step in and be co-parents of your children. It's really sad. I used to love my job so much, I came in every day looking forward to the trials and tribulations of watching little children grow up and head off to school. Now I drag myself into work and find myself putting far more effort into creating a paper trail for the govt to check up on as 'evidence' that we are a good center, instead of putting more effort into making sure the kiddos in my care are happy healthy and having fun learning experiences.

And on par with most govt programs - we got the letter today and only have until Monday to file and mail an appeal. Um......????? If we need something from them, it can take weeks or months (like a child welfare check taking 3 weeks this year when there is nothing to report on any staff member anyway and we have to redo them every 3 years, along with a police record check that takes over a week) - but if they want something from us, we get 24 business hours to comply. Reminds me of when someone owes taxes and they get the letter 5 days before a chunk of money is due, or they incur a penalty (up here at least) - but if they goofed up and owe you money, it takes at least a month if not several months before the money comes back to you.

So just a warning to those in here who may be 'on the fence' about govt involvement in things like childcare. Since when did parents stop asking for proof of police checks or use their own eyes, or request a communication book if they really want it? Instead, the govt demands it and then a good center with the lowest staff turnover in the city, if not the province for all I know, gets the shaft and told they are not good enough. What a wonderful govt system this is!

Edit to add: Wanna know the one thing we did NOT lose points/score on? Our direct interactions with the children. We got a 100% score on that, which was the largest part of the whole process, but still managed to fail based on a lack of certain kinds of nefarious paperwork. That really makes a whole lot of sense, doesnt it? Is that what parents wanted when they asked the govt for help?

Edit to add: We also lost points for not having Incident Reports on file. these are for anytime a child gets an owie, or shows up at school with a strange bruise, etc. Guess what? We have none on file because we have not had a child injured at the center in any way for over 6 months and before that, you did not need to keep incident reports unless it was serious - needing medical attention from outside sources. We lost points BECAUSE we try hard not to let the kiddos hurt themselves. Oh boy. that's a good one!

Final warning - all it will do, when asking the govt for 'help' in matters such as this, is cost YOU more money. Since this process started, our fees have gone up from $450 a month to $630 a month, with loss of some services in between like hot lunches now being bagged lunches from home, in order to pay for the extra staff hours needed for compiling paperwork that no parent has EVER asked us to see. Not one single time. It costs money to get the govt involved - when will people finally realize this?

And what is really sad is that while I am re-reading this post, I am in tears. I cannot believe that my job has come to this. Being criticized and losing accreditation status for the first time ever, because of a ridiculous paper trail that is missing a handful of sheets. I do not wake up happy to go to work, I wake up thinking 'oh god. what's going to happen today?'. But parents are the ones that ultimately asked for this. Or they did not think about it properly when being surveyed. Not the parents at my center specifically, the surveys they filled out for us were stellar and wonderful, but around the province, and the country, more and more parents are demanding that the govt step in FOR them and check on things. If a center in the north east of the province has one staff member that caused a problem and it turned out their references were faked and the director did not check up, suddenly all centers across the country have to provide references even if their staff have been there 17 years (like me, at my current center), and there have been no problems. Parents can ask for these things themselves too, like they did in the old days when my mom did home care, but they cannot be bothered. they want to assume that when they step into a center, the govt has checked all this out for them.

It's YOUR child. YOU should be in charge of checking this. Ask the center to see police checks and first aid certificates before you register your child. Ask for references from past parents who used the center, or current ones. It's YOUR child.  I cannot recall ever in my 20 years in this field, a parent asking to see any of those things. Why not? It's your flesh and blood, the most precious thing in your life I would hope, and you should be responsible for checking these things - not demanding the govt do it for you and then complain when the price of childcare keeps rising so high. It's high BECAUSE you ask the govt to check these things out and force centers to bend over backwards to provide two decades worth of paperwork at the drop of a hat. If childcare costs too much - blame fellow parents and anyone involved in following their demands and making them regulation.

6 comments:

  1. Interesting post. I remember similar arguments being made by my parents who owned and operated private nursing homes before they were subject to government control. Before that, there would be random inspections which kept the good operators running respectable businesses. Red tape is enemy of entrepreneurship.

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  2. Sorry..your place knew the rules..it wasn't done... no sympathy.

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  3. Actually, Anon #2, we did not. There are NO 'rules' that daily communication books must be filled out for each child by every staff member. It does NOT appear anywhere in the information. It is suggested IF parents wish it. There are NO rules that a full daily calendar listing each and every book, song, finger play, activity, etc be provided and posted. In fact, at our last full accreditation in 2009, we were PRAISED for our monthly theme calendar and told to just write on the back of it if we had to make any notes, such as an activity being changed because it was too difficult for toddlers, or adapted to fit a different idea, or a field trip cancelled due to weather, etc. We have done that for 3 years and this Validator (the accreditation 'inspector') did not even want to see them. She said 'where is the daily chart?'. There is NO reference whatsoever to requiring a daily detailed activity chart in ANY of our documentation.

    There was also NO reference over the past 7 years regarding the director having a piece of paper in staff files detailing what references she checked on what dates. We have all the staff references in their application, as required, but the new thing about keeping a record of what references were checked only appeared in July of last year. No new staff has been hired, so we have not had a chance to keep that record.

    As also mentioned above, there have been NO incidents with any children since the NEW thing popped up in July about keeping the incident reports in the children's files. This was never required before July 2011. If we have none, how are we supposed to keep them? Make up a FAKE report for an injury that did NOT occur, just so we can get a score on accreditation?

    Each and every thing we lost marks on this time were things that we have NEVER required before. We were one of the first 150 centers in the province to achieve Accredited status back when it first started, even getting a special prize and plaque for it. We have done everything they ask, year after year, and suddenly now with a bunch of brand new items that we had no way of conforming with, we lose that status?

    We have 22 years of near perfect regular inspections (the only things we EVER get a violation for are parents not signing their children in and out properly, but we are not allowed to leave a group of children and stand by the book to make sure they do it right). We have perfect health and fire inspection reports for 22 years. We have had 7 years of fantastic accreditation reports - then - POOF. We don't. For rules that only JUST started 6 months before the visit.

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  4. We also lost marks for not having the question 'what are your child's prefereces and fears' on the registration forms. We have several questions about favorite animal to sleep with, blanket, activities, and a section for 'any other things you would like us to know about your child', but it did not say 'fears', so we lost a mark. When we asked why, the Validator said 'some parents might not think to include a fear, like the fear of dogs'. so we lost a mark for that, when in over 22 years, that has NEVER been required or even suggested - until the day she walked in the door.

    Everything we lost marks on has never been a requirement of basic regulations or accreditation suggestions until the last 6 months. So you speak of something you know nothing about. They are not 'rules' either, they are 'suggestions' on how to make your center go above and beyond the basics. Nothing else we did for the children in the past 3 years was even looked at. I have taken 12 professional development courses aimed directly at preschool children - and the Validator did not look at ANY of the certificates in my file, nor my fellow coworkers. That is another example of how crazy all of this is.

    Each time accreditation rolls around, they come up with new ideas right there on the spot and centers lose points for not having psychic abilities. I have written about it extensively in past posts. Perhaps you should read back and follow the leader. you will see what we lost points on in other years (even though we still passed with over 80%), and how none of it relates to what happened with our validation at the end of February.

    Also I might point out that some of the things we lost points for, we DO and the validator did not see them and did not ask for them. One thing in particular, she told me that we do not have extended Developmental Checklists on ANY of the children. I said 'yes we do! I did them myself! Go check 'child's name'. Well - she didn't check. My own son is one of the children we have extended checklists done on, and there are 6 others. But the report we received said 'there is NO evidence of ANY children having comprehensive checklists on file'.

    Another point loss was another mistake - she wrote that NO evidence was shown that parents are informed of developmental issues. In 7 children's files, there are records of parents attending meetings at the center to talk about speech therapy and behavioural therapy for their children. They signed and initialed each meeting. My own son is one of them also. She never asked us for any help finding that info, just gave us a Zero.

    Yet another thing we lost points on was where she said there was NO evidence of the center using community resources to help the children. DUH? The speech therapy program is done through the school district, and again, there are 7 children's files containing this information. We also had a folder CALLED 'community events' that showed a field trip we went on in Sept for a local farm under the Growing Minds program, so local children can learn about where their food comes from and what a farm looks like. We had the consent forms, sign up sheet for the program, and photos of the event in the Community folder - and she never looked at it obviously.

    So there were several things we lost marks on that we DO have, and things we lost marks on that have never ever been required before, and some that have not even been suggested. It's mind boggling.

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  5. It's too bad you have to go through all this. Bureaucracy at its best, no wonder people are trying alternate (cheaper) solutions. I'm interested in the aupair phenomenon and I see it's been expanding everywhere, no wonder! The sad part is the lack of legislation in the UK and many other countries, which leaves the au pairs vulnerable to abuse, but you can hardly blame parents and young girls/boys trying this system (it works for many, as long you carefully choose the au pair and respectively the host family). It would be good if more families could afford qualified nannies or childcare centres, but childcare can be incredibly expensive (it's a very big problem in the UK right now).

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  6. I lived in England from 1996 to 1998 and I had my first child over there, in Oxford. I went back to work when he was 5 months old and I was surprised at the rules even back then. No one could look after a child all day like that unless they were a Registered Childminder. I had hoped my friend would look after my son, as she had a daughter only 2 weeks younger and they were buddies. She thought if she could look after mine and stay home with her's, she would not have to go back to work. But she was not registered and we were afraid of being ratted out. In order to avoid a 2000GBP fine, I had to find a registered minder immmediately. I found another woman a few doors down and the very first day she had my son, she called me at work to come get him cos he was sick. ARGH. I was so frustrated. She called me the next day and the next day again.

    I went back to my friend and she looked after him until I moved home to Canada a few months later. I don't understand how that girl could be good enough to look after her own child, but be considered not good enough to look after mine - same age and everything. It took away MY choices and I found that frustrating and upsetting.

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These are my views and opinions. If you don't agree or think I am sadly misguided, that is your view. Feel free to share your thoughts but I also reserve my right to moderate content (IE foul language, excessive flaming, etc).

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