At least once a week I am reading about another one of these tragic cases. This morning was no exception. This time, it was an 11 month-old boy, who is now blind and can no longer sit up. Something like this is a life changer for the child involved, no doubt, but also for the child’s entire family. A future that at one moment was bright has now been devastated, along with the plans, hopes, and dreams of the family members.
Many times, the parents really believe they did their homework in choosing a care provider... looking at references and asking lots of questions. But, it just wasn’t enough to ensure that their baby, that they entrusted to a provider’s care, would be safe and would be the same child when they picked him up at the end of the day. Instead, they got a frightening call from the emergency room where he had been taken, or a call from the provider saying something was terribly wrong with their child and they should come home.
Of course, not all of these cases could have been prevented. Child abuse can take place in spite of the best laid plans, due to the unforeseen deviancy in human behavior that sometimes cannot be detected or predicted. However, there are some steps families can take to learn how to choose a quality care provider and agencies to help them with this process.
Child Care Aware, the national network of child care resource and referral agencies, is a good place to start. A visit to their website offers a bullet point checklist of what parents should be looking for when visiting potential programs or care providers. There are videos depicting quality care and even live chat with a child care expert available. When parents follow the link to their particular state affiliate, they can access detailed information about child care in the local community. It is a free and easy process to get information about prospective caregivers and programs, including violations, ratings, and links to licensing reports. Many states have their own child care locating services, offering even more information that can sometimes be more up-to-date and comprehensive.
Unfortunately, many parents aren't aware of the significant criteria for choosing care for their children. Some families in low income situations assume they must settle for low quality care. But, just like child abuse, not knowing where to turn for help or being misinformed crosses all socioeconomic circumstances.
As Early Childhood professionals, one of our responsibilities is to empower families to seek out and demand quality care for their children. Hopefully, this critical information will continue to be disseminated to the public, so the types of tragedies we hear about all too often will stop.