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Ring, Ring "Your child is ill…please pick her up" – The Child Care Director

The child care center's phone number pops up on my caller ID and my first thought is, "you have got to be kidding me". As a parent of two, I can tell you I have had my fair share of sick days for my daughters. Children are good at catching illness (and spreading illness to others) many times throughout the year. Most parents only have a certain number of sick and vacation days, and they rely on child care to…well, actually provide care.

Child Care Directors have a BIG responsibility to ensure that the children, staff and visitors are healthy when they walk through the doors of the center. Children have smaller respiratory and digestive systems than adults, so illnesses can be severe and spread very quickly. There is a method to the madness when it comes to sending sick children home. Remember, the goal of the child care director is to stop the illness from spreading and when you have a building full of little ones, things can get out of hand very quickly. Let's put this in perspective using you, the reader.

  1. You, sick with a fever and sore throat
  2. You + your spouse and two kids = 4
  3. You and your spouse go to work and work with eight co-workers each = 16
  4. Your two kids go off to child care in classes of 12 and 20 = 32, plus the 4 teachers = 36.
  5. Add up your family, co-workers, child care friends and teachers (4 + 16 + 36) = 56 children and adults you have either directly or indirectly been in contact with in just one day.

That is 56 people you could potentially spread an illness to, and we didn't even add in a stop at the grocery store, other classrooms in the childcare center and the families all of those people went home to. As I said earlier, the child care director has a BIG responsibility when it comes to the health of the children at her center.

The Department of Health and Human Services in Nebraska requires licensed centers to have a written illness exclusion policy identifying why children would be excluded from care for an illness. Now, what fun would a policy be if it wasn't enforced? None. Plus, the center would be in breach of their licensing requirements. On the flip side, it is not fun to have to be the director, teacher or staff member who is responsible to make the call notifying parents that their child is ill and that they need to come and pick them up promptly. As a past child care director, I think I would take getting the call over making the call any day!

One way you can help your child care director would be to request a copy of their illness exclusion policy. It is much easier to follow a policy if you know what you are supposed to be doing. If your center director tells you they do not have one, encourage them to create one. A good practice would be to get a copy of your child care center's health contract before you enroll, so that you fully understand what they expect from you as a parent when it comes to sick children. A quality policy should list major and minor illnesses, the center's definition of a fever, when your child can return to care, as well as the steps the center takes to stop the spread of illness (such as hand washing, disinfecting toys and documentation of immunizations).

My little ones were sick with ear infections and colds every other week for about the first 4 years of each of their lives. I typically try to find the positive side of things – now that they are bigger and in elementary school, they are rarely ill – maybe they 'caught' all the viruses when they were young! I know it might be hard to have to leave work to take care of your little one, but when your child gets sick, other children are exposed. The director, teacher and staff members at your child care center are doing their very best to make sure they are stopping the spread of illness.

Jaclynn Foged

The UNL Learning Child Team

Jaclynn, is an Extension Educator on The Learning Child Team. Jaci holds a B.S. Degree in Early Childhood Education/Child Development from the University of Nebraska – Lincoln and a M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction from Doane College in Crete, Ne. Jaci provides training to childcare providers and families in the Southeast area of Nebraska. Jaci has over 15 years of experience working with children birth to 8 years of age, including 8 years of center based childcare director experience. ...

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