Policy and Procedures
As an early childhood educator, I believe it is important to remember each child is part of a family and building a strong relationship between us that supports you in raising a healthy, happy child is my goal. I understand every household can have a different parenting style and at Country Fun Child Care I strive to understand and respect the rights of each child’s parents/legal guardians. However I also know some parenting styles may place a child at risk of harm and/or injury. I see it as one of my responsibilities to provide support and education to parents/legal guardians in an effort to prevent child abuse and neglect.
Maine law identifies any child care worker as a mandated reporter. As such, I MUST contact the appropriate authorities when faced with the suspicion that a child is being abused or neglected, or witness an incident. As a mandated reporter I can not report anonymously.
Mandated reporters are required to take training in child abuse/neglect recognition, prevention and mandated reporting laws. I continue to also take the required retraining every 4 years.
Reporting Abuse and Neglect
A report must be made when there is reason to suspect that a child has been abused or neglected. Waiting for absolute proof may result in significant risk to the child. It is not the job of the individual reporting the abuse/neglect to validate the abuse; this is the job of CPS caseworkers or law enforcement officers who have been trained to undertake this type of investigation.
When I suspect that a child is being abused or neglected, I will follow this procedure:
- When there is reasonable cause to suspect child abuse or neglect, it will be reported it to the appropriate community agency.
- When providing information about the family, I will be conscious of the rights of children and parents. Great care will be taken to ensure the confidentiality of information and to share it only with those persons officially involved in the case.
- If there is any question about whether the abuse/neglect is reportable, I will consult my state licensing specialist for advice about the procedure to follow.
- Country Fun Child Care will follow any of the mandated procedures by DHHS.
- Written documentation is made of suspected abuse/neglect.
- Country Fun Child Care will preserve the confidentiality of all records pertaining to child abuse and neglect.
- As the owner, I will represent Country Fun Child Care in any discussions with the child’s family.
- I will follow up with the appropriate agencies and individuals to ensure that appropriate action has been taken.
- When appropriate, parents or legal guardians will be informed that the referral has been made.
When the provider or house member is suspected or accused of abuse/neglect of a child at Country Fun Child Care, the plan of action is as follows:
- When there is reasonable cause to suspect child abuse or neglect, it shall be reported by the individual with first hand knowledge of the situation it to the appropriate community agency.
- Documentation of the accusation is made and added to the appropriate records/files.
- As owner of Country Fun Child Care, I must notify my licensing specialist of the situation.
- Country Fun Child Care will follow the procedure outlined by DHHS for this type of situation.
Once cases of child abuse or neglect have been reported, they must be investigated and verified. All states and territories have specific requirements for the initial response by agencies receiving reports of child abuse and neglect. In most states, a screening process is used to determine whether a report will be accepted; this process includes a review of the report in the context of the state’s definitions of child abuse and neglect. Every state mandates that child protective services begin an investigation within a timely manner, usually within 72 hours, and in even less time when there is reasonable cause to believe that the child is in imminent danger.
There are many things child care providers can do to prevent abuse and protect themselves from false allegations. At Country Fun Child Care, program policies are regularly reviewed and play areas are continually assessed with prevention in mind to help eliminate potential problems. The following guidelines may help keep children safe and reduce the risk of abuse and neglect in the child care setting:
- The Family Child Care Licensing Rule requires criminal background checks for all staff, volunteers and house members.
- Check at least two references before hiring a staff person.
- Access ongoing training to learn current information about the care, development and guidance of children and about child abuse issues.
- Maintain appropriate child-to-staff ratios and small group sizes.
- Encourage parents/legal guardians to join in our activities and to drop into the program whenever they can.
- Structure environment so no adult present on the Premises will be alone with one child out of sight and/or sound of other children and adults.
The following are some basic guidelines when working with any child, but especially one with challenging behaviors:
- Never hit or strike a child.
- Do not use physical punishment of any kind.
- Hugs are okay if they are appropriate. Take clues from the body language of the child, or simply ask, “Is it okay for me to hug you?” As the adult, if you do not feel comfortable with a hug from a child, tell them in a gentle way and suggest an alternative, such as holding your hand or touching your shoulder or arm.
- Respect a child’s personal boundaries. Like adults, children have preferences about contact. Remember that some individuals like being close and getting hugs, but others don’t like a lot of close contact.
- Infants and toddlers are at an especially high risk of being abused or neglected, partly because they cannot tell someone about the abuse. If these ages are in care, there needs to be access to training focused on child development specifically for infants and toddlers.
Country Fun Child Care will make sure any future staff members and volunteers understand appropriate and inappropriate ways to interact with children.