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How the proposed changes in child care policies may affect your child

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There are quite a few valid (and some redundant) changes to hopefully be implemented by local daycare centers. The proposed changes are not necessarily easy to understand, unless you comprehend the jargon and can sift through the chaff to get to the grain of the matter.

The best things proposed seem to be:

  • more visits from the licensing division to make sure that compliance is in place.
  • providing adequate sleeping space for children, to ensure they can rest more easily without crowding
  • ensuring that there are adequate staff present at all times to monitor and check on children, whether asleep or awake
  • making sure that directors and ALL staff have the training, background checks, finger prints and criminal history checks done prior to employment. Indeed, instead of having 3 days to comply, they now have 24 hours.
  • ensuring that directors and their designated substitutes have the adequate training, education and experience to complete the necessary tasks when the director is not in place
  • staff:student ratios in all daycare centers, no matter the age group
  • the separation of boys and girls in sleeping areas
  • less crowded rooms, no matter the time of day and ensuring that there is adequate play and learning space for all ages of children, whether inside or outdoors
  • more toilets and sinks for children - one for every 4 children, which is highly preferable to previous experience
  • more training for Directors, staff and support staff, increasing each year until 2016.
  • Parents to accompany children under the age of 5 years when on field trips with more structure and previous approval from all concerned
  • Before and After School programs to be limited to 10% more children than commonly cared for, with additional staff hired to ensure compliance with regulations. Care cannot exceed 3 hours before or 3 hours after normal school hours.
  • A written policy for behavior modification will be in place, all staff will be trained in the appropriate measures and parents will be advised of any changes in policy before it is implemented. These methods must be approved by the Division. No physical or passive restraint will be used, unless another child or the child who is acting out is in danger. Children will not be deprived of their normal activities (lunch, snack, outdoor play) and no child should be physically punished. Only approved methods of discipline may be used.
  • Directors and those in charge of facilities will need more training, more specialized education and more experience to run a center and to be in charge of staff and operations. All must be members of the "Nevada Registry."
  • Volunteers will also have to undergo background and criminal history checks before they are allowed to work with the children

What does that mean for your child? In a perfect world, where regulations are met and where licensing is strictly adhered to, your child will be in a smaller class, with more teachers who are better prepared, less stressed and more able to spend quality time with your child. There will be sufficient toilets, sinks, sleeping space, room and less crowding, leading to a happier, healthier environment. Nap time will be less stressful for teachers, with better supervision and time for preparations for the rest of the week. Children will spend less time at school and more time with their families, and will appreciate the learning at the center. Directors will be more knowledgeable and will be available to address concerns, or they will appoint a knowledgeable person in their place if they are unable to be present. Licensing will be visiting more often, ensuring compliance, and fines will be imposed if places are not complying with regulations. There will be more posting of qualifications, more specific handbooks for parents, and a more open policy in child care centers. Infants and toddlers will have more caregivers present each day to ensure they are safe and well. Licensing would visit with no notice, to make sure centers comply. And the wee children will be cared for in less crowded settings.

"Caregivers for infants and toddlers. (NRS 432A.077)
1.  Whenever one or more infants or toddlers who are under 2 years of age are being cared for in a child care center, the licensee shall have at least one caregiver on duty who is designated to provide that care.
2.  An additional caregiver must be on duty whenever more than six infants or toddlers who are under 30 months of age are in a child care center between the hours of 6:30 a.m. and 9:00 p.m."

In reality, ratios still are not optimal. Overnights, between 9:00 p.m.and 6:30 a.m., only one caregiver must be present if under 15 children are present. What happens if the caregiver has to use the washroom, grab a snack/drink, or, at worst, falls asleep? There is no one supervising the kids. If there are over 16 children, 2 caregivers must be present; if more than 32 children are in attendance, there will be three caregivers. I can say from experience that this is much too high a ratio, especially if one of the teachers has to leave the room, or if a child is ill and has to be cared for more closely. One crying child with night terrors can wake everyone up. And how will space restrictions be met, unless several rooms are designated as "sleeping rooms?"

For children over the age of two years, the ratio (at its highest) is 6 children: 1 caregiver. But if you have 20 children, you only need 2 caregivers? And 50 children only need 4 caregivers? As you can see, it seems to increase exponentially, which is not acceptable. Children between the ages of 2 and 3 years still, according to regulations, only need one caregiver per 10 children. This ratio is far too high. We all know how challenging toddlers are and how carefully they have to be supervised.

With "in house" ratios, which still seem to be touted as acceptable, there only needs to be an acceptable amount of staff available "on call" on the same floor at any time. Yet, as experienced child care workers will tell you, it's not always easy to get someone to come to your classroom in an emergency. The so-called "available" extras may be having lunch, dealing with an upset child, contacting parents, caring for an ill child, doing paperwork necessary for a report, etc. As stated before, "in a perfect world..." but as any daycare worker will tell you, there seldom is a perfect world in a child care setting.'

The new regulations are a beginning, but there is a long way to go. Hopefully changes to ratios will be made by administration and licensed inspectors who have experience in teaching young children and who have, themselves, spent time in the classroom and remember and understand just how stressful it can be.

These are the regulations that we had to comply with when I was a Director and teacher in Manitoba, Canada. They still make more sense to me:

Day care centre — Separate age groups
Age Staff:child ratios Max. group sizes
12 wks-1 yr 1:3 with a maximum of 6 children
1-2 yrs 1:4 with a maximum of 8 children
2-3 yrs 1:6 with a maximum of 12 children
3-4 yrs 1:8 with a maximum of 16 children
4-5 yrs 1:9 with a maximum of 18 children
5-6 yrs 1:10 with a maximum of 20 children
6-12 yrs 1:15 with a maximum of 30 children

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