Every outstanding care center has policies in place to ensure things go according to plan, and help to quickly recover when things go south. Before developing your center’s policies to reflect your philosophy, goals, and expectations, try not to think only of what policies you need, but also why you need them. Through this reflection, you should find that you need policies that first and foremost protect the safety, health, and happiness of the children and staff working in your center.
The primary reason to implement policies is to provide a safe environment where children can learn and grow. There are obvious reasons for some policies such as a policy regarding emergency evacuations or the CPR certification of staff, but there are also less obvious reasons for some safety policies. While policies tend to be rigidly-followed rules, they should also have the ability to expand and be subject to change to fit the safety needs of a child.
An example would be pick-up and drop-off policies. This is a central aspect of your care center’s everyday routine, and is vital to the safety of your students. Protecting children from parents or guardians without custody, who are intoxicated or under the influence, or who have inappropriate transportation is the responsibility of you and your staff, and may force you to break certain rules in order to best ensure the child is safe.
For example, if a parent were to arrive at your center to pick up a child, and you smell alcohol on their breath, it’s in the child’s best interest for you to not allow them to leave with the adult, even if this adult is allowed to pick up the child. An administrator should be contacted to explain the situation to the respective parent, and they should arrange for another guardian or emergency contact to pick the child up.
Other policies that protect a child’s safety may include:
- Communication between caregivers and families
- Emergency preparedness plans
- Center closings formalities (weather emergencies, holidays, etc.)
- Transportation and field trips
- Medication administration
Keeping students healthy in your center and out of your facility when sick is another responsibility you have as an owner of a care center. While health policies include administering medication and even requiring certain immunizations, they can also involve sanitation regulations that prevent your center from exposure to illness or infection.
Sick day policies are a perfect example of preventing your students and staff from being exposed to or exposing others to illness. Even if a staff or child has a slight cold, they are putting others at risk of becoming sick.
Your goal should be to keep sick kids at home in order to get better faster so they can return to school. Sick day policies are a way to establish with parents when it’s appropriate or not to bring a child into your facility. Establishing this ahead of time will help avoid the sick day drama and allows parents for more time to prepare backup plans. This helps keep your children and staff healthy and helps sick students recover faster.
Other policies that protect the health of everyone at your center may include:
- Feeding and breast milk storage
- Immunization requirements
- Medication administration
- Sanitation guidelines and procedures
The physical well being of your students is a huge priority, but keeping children emotionally healthy—or happy—is also the responsibility of caregivers. Policies should reflect this importance.
Understanding the impact that poor mental health and stress has on children is a relatively new topic of discussion, but has always been important. According to the Child Mind Institute, 1 in 5 children suffer from a mental health or learning disorder. Kids absorb the actions and traits of those around them, and are fundamentally impacted by the environment they are exposed to. Policies that help kids support mental health within your center will help them gain emotional intelligence that helps them mature and gain control of their feelings and actions.
Policies should implement a curriculum that challenges students appropriately and helps them accomplish goals, keeps younger students well rested and on a reasonable routine, and guides them to uphold positive relationships with staff and students alike.
An example of a policy that keeps students emotionally aware and engaged in positive relationships are those that counter bullying and clique forming. Bullying policies are frequently overlooked in care centers, especially when the children are 4 to 5 years old.
However, NAEYC studies show that cliques start in preschool, and you should establish policies that move to disassemble cliques if they form. Bullying puts the mental and emotional well-being of children in danger, so establishing these policies protects the happiness of kids and creates a more positive environment for both staff and students.
More policies that keep students happy and emotionally healthy include:
- Parent involvement
- Communication between staff and families
- Discipline and guidance
- Napping and sleeping
- Curriculum guidelines and goals
Policies can sometimes be hard to carry out effectively, but always remember that they serve to protect the most important members of your care community: the children. Ensuring a child’s safety, health, and happiness should be the primary reason for implementing policies in your center. The importance behind each policy should be reviewed frequently to ensure they are consistently being followed. Changing the lives of students, whether it’s keeping them from catching a cold or preventing them from being bullied or left out, is something that promotes a positive environment and an ever-growing center.
For more information
“What’s Your Day Care Sick Policy?” – Care.com
“Child Care Contract and Parent Handbook, What to Include” – All-Things-Child-Care.com
“Choosing Quality Child Care” – Childcare.gov