“It’s a rare person who can take care of hearts as well as take care of business”- Unknown
I spent a total of 2 years working for Child and Youth Services (CYS), an organization that caters to the needs of the families assigned to Army installations throughout the world. Part of the CYS structure includes child development centers, which cares for children from 6 weeks to 5 years. I was privileged to both teach and serve on the administrative end. In my time as an assistant director of operations in my building, I had the responsibility of taking care of and advocating for my teachers, while ensuring that organizational, Army, and NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children) regulations and policies were being met. As a director, I also handled problems or concerns from parents whenever they occurred. Most of the center’s patrons are caring and hard-working parents, who would do anything for the safety and happiness of their child(ren). But as with all things, there have been those who do not fully understand or have accepted the entirety of parenthood, so much so that they often see “daycare” as a place to dump their child(ren) so they do not have to deal with them on their own. I know this sounds harsh, but unfortunately it is true. A military spouse myself, I am fully aware of the stresses that often befall the military family, including not having or being aware of useful resources, lacking a strong support system, or having an inaccessibility to appropriate parental education. These factors can often increase the chances of child neglect and/or abuse, of which I have seen more than my fair share.
I am not here to complain or even vent about the issues I have faced as a director of a child care facility. As a mom of three children, I was often empathetic to the needs of our military families, as my husband serves in the United States Army. However, it was my job to ensure that our policies and procedures were adhered to by all who used our services to ensure the safety and well-being of our children, and to sustain a high morale for my staff in the workplace. The goal of this article is not meant to shame or judge anyone. It is my hope that it might shed some light on what it means to care for other people’s children. Being mission essential employee of the United States government entails awesome responsibility. My former employees serve too, and I am confident that a better line of communication between families and child-care providers will improve understanding and compassion that will in turn lead to more successful relationships among teachers, children, and families.
So what does your day care provider want you to know?
“We love and care about your child. We look at them as though they are our own sons and daughters and we really do want to ensure that they are cared for in the best possible way.”
“We are more than babysitters. We engage, we observe, and we document the development of your child, and in our own way we teach them. It might not be institutionalized like a school, but they free learn with us and discover themselves through us.”
“As much as caregivers want to give individual attention, we can’t always give specific attention to a specific child (all day). There is a lot that goes on in our rooms, and there will be times that your child will get hurt by accident. Often times, this can happen in the blink of an eye, especially as children are learning to pull up and walk. We work hard to ensure our rooms are safe for the children, but accidents do happen and trust us enough to know that we are trained to handle them as they do.”
“If you do not want anything to get lost, please be sure to label all personal items (ie: extra clothes, diapers, basic care items). This is your responsibility! We want to make sure that the hard-earned money you spend on your child is used for your child.”
“Please bring your child in for the day ready to play. We know mornings are hectic, but please ensure that your child has on clean clothes, and a dry, clean diaper before dropping him or her off. Most likely in the early mornings, I am the only one in your child’s classroom with other children to accept. It takes time away from other children, and from playtime with your child when I have to clean a newly-accepted child. Drop off your child in the same state that you want your child picked up in- clean.”
“Please pay attention to your child’s cubby! Because it can get crazy sometimes, we like to leave you little notes so that communication is continuous despite the goings-on of the day. This is where we will inform you if your child needs more diapers, wipes, extra clothes, or share other important news. It is your responsibility to provide these items for your child so that we can care for them.”
“Please try to avoid using your phone when you are dropping off and picking up your child. We get it; things happen and there are times when it might be unavoidable. But pick-up and drop-off time is crucial for us to communicate with you about your child’s day, including happy reports and possible concerns. Help us help you build that important relationship so that we can help your child be successful.”
“Please avoid bringing your sick child to school! It spreads germs and makes other children, and their teachers, sick. We know work is important, but your child’s health is just a little more important. Please ensure that they feeling well upon their return. Think about where you want to be when you are sick. Odds are it’s not in a populated room with loud noises.”
“Cherish the time you have with your babies. Slow down, and see your children, especially on days that you do not have to go to work. We get that having time for yourself is important. Being a parent is taxing, and any time you can take for yourself is vital for emotional well-being, especially if you lack familial support. However, your child needs and craves time with you, quality time that does not include waking up, feeding, dropping off at daycare, picking up at daycare, bedtime, and repeat. We do our best to provide loving care for your child, but we are not their parents, you are. They need you! And just like you need time away from your job, your child needs time away from school. The most important thing is to spend time with your child. ”
“Remember that your child spent the whole day without you and you are the most important person in their world. We know you’ve had a long day, but in the very least pretend to listen when they try to tell you about their day or show you something they’ve made. It breaks my heart every time I see the disappointment on your child’s face when you dismiss him or her and the joy they want to share with you. Remember you are creating habits; you will want the communication they crave now with you, when they are older.”
“Please pay attention during your orientation. It is there that you will learn what the expectations are for you as parents during your child’s tenure at our center. It is also there that we will explain the important policies and procedures that govern our operations. Please know that policies have been put in place by higher Army and NAEYC, and we have to abide by these standards to keep our doors open. Please do your part to follow the rules, as they are put in place to keep your child comfortable, healthy, and safe. If you have any questions or concerns, don’t be afraid to ask. But be kind. Running a child care center is not easy, and while customer service is important, it does not mean you will always get your way.”
“We love it when you get involved! Take the opportunity to volunteer in the classroom, attend parent-teacher conferences, or participate in parent-child activities and parent advisory meetings when they occur. Your feedback is crucial in helping us identify areas in which we can improve so that we can be the best starting point in your child’s educational, emotional, and physical development. It does nothing when you complain or voice concerns, but fail to get involved in finding solutions. We are here to serve you and your family! Help us do that!”