Signs your day care is subpar

BY CANDIECE KNIGHT

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

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IT is not easy to leave your child with anyone, especially when he/she is a baby or toddler who is not yet able to speak. It therefore becomes important for parents to find suitable childcare, so that you can be sure that your most prized possession is being well taken care of.

While some parents are lucky to have close relatives or babysitters to tend to their children's needs, others have to utilise group settings such as day care centres and nurseries while they're at work. Though your child may not be able to tell you just yet, if you pay attention you can spot the signs of a bad day care before something serious happens to your child.

A bad reputation

Parents talk openly about childcare providers, so if it is a good day care you will hear about it from other parents. If you hear complaints from parents about how their children are treated, or if you hear nothing at all, then it is a red flag. Parents who suspect that their children are not well taken care of but continue to send them there might feel a bit guilty, and so they keep quiet.

“I moved into a new area and was going to register my son in a day care because it was close to home and the price wasn't bad, so I went there one evening when parents were picking up kids and asked some of them how they found the service. They said it was OK but not great. I didn't risk it with my son.”

— Kim, mom of one

No certification

The Early Childhood Act of 2005 requires that any place that cares for four or more children under the age of six years for up to six hours per day must be registered with the Early Childhood Commission (ECC). In order to be registered, the institution must meet the 12 standards of the ECC, which guide the daily operations of the centre, training of staff members, health and sanitation, safety of the environment, and proper records of children and staff. Most certified centres will have their certification displayed clearly for all to see, but you can also check if the centre is registered at ecc.gov.jm.

Poor record-keeping

Was your child registered and asked to do a medical exam before being enrolled in the institution? Is there a list of persons who are authorised to pick up your child that is strictly adhered to? Do you get receipts for payments that you make? Is your child's attendance recorded everyday upon being signed in and out? If your answer to any of these questions is no, then it means that your institution needs to get it together. A good day care is accountable.

“My child's father and I are not together but he contributes financially, so I keep records of the monthly expenditures and send to him so that he can see where his money is going. If a day care cannot provide me with receipts for my money, then that's a definite no-no for me.”

—Jodian, mom of one

Not enough hands

Whenever you go to drop off or pick up your child, he/she will be the centre of attention. But do you often notice other babies wailing with no one tending to them? Take note of how many caregivers are at the institution and how many children's names you see in the attendance book when you sign your child in. If the child to caregiver ratio is too high, then it is very likely that your child gets neglected at some point in the day.

“I need to know which 'aunty' is assigned specifically to my child, and how many other children she has to look after. If I sometimes feel like I'm going crazy with my two children, I don't see how one person can attend to 10 children or more like I see in some of these day cares.”

— Melissa, mom of two

Too many mix-ups

Many parents fear day cares because of how quickly communicable illnesses can spread there. It doesn't help, then, if your child's things are constantly being confused for those of other children. Some day cares will write your child's name on their belongings to reduce mix-ups, and have a designated area for each child's things. It is definitely a bad sign if your child keeps coming home with wrong bottles, receivers, clothes and other personal items.

“I had to move my baby from a day care because as soon as she recovered from one cold, she was down with another one. And she always came home with other baby stuff in her bag, and with some of her things missing. Things would turn up in her bag after weeks and only God knows where they were.”

— Matthew, dad of one

Unsafe environment

If you notice that children of different age groups are in the same room, it is an instant red flag. Generally, there needs to be a room for immobile babies (equipped with well-spaced cribs, changing and feeding areas), and a separate space for the movers and the shakers. If the day care also provides aftercare services for older children, they also need their own safe space. Having children in different age groups together will heighten the risk of your child being bullied, seriously hurt or falling ill. Also ensure to check if the toys and activities are age-appropriate for your child, and if there are any dangers in the play area.

“My son barely ate but he never came home with leftover snacks from day care. I dropped by a bit earlier than usual one day, and I realised that some big kids were hanging out in the nursery. I even saw one of them holding a baby while 'aunty' was preparing my child to bring to me. I think they were taking the snacks too.”

— Liz, mom of two

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