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Sick Children at Child Care

Dear Debi,
I have a ďsick ruleĒ policy written into my contract which all parents have to sign. I have one mother whoís dropped off her sick 4 year old a few times. How do I get her to respect and abide by my policy?
Diane, Los Angeles, CA
Debi's Tips
Debi Gutierrez
Debi Gutierrez
  • Have clear sick child guidelines
  • Emphasize your sick policy
  • Provide parents with alternatives
Expert Advice
Susan Baxter
Susan Baxter
Early Childhood Education Instructor, El Camino Community College
Providers should have a sick rule policy written into their contracts. In order for parents to abide by a providerís contract, they must sit down with a parent ahead of time to make sure that they understand the policy.

Providers must emphasize that the welfare of all children in their program is at stake when they drop off a sick child.

When I ran my own family child care, before I even accepted a child into the program, I made sure that parents had a back-up plan in case their child got sick. I also made sure that they gave me the phone numbers of family members or neighbors in the event I had to send their child home.

There has to be a very clear definition of what sick means. Stuffy noses are a minor illness. All children are going to get stuffy or runny noses Ė thatís what happens in a communal care setting.

For anything highly contagious, though, they need to be isolated and removed as soon as possible. For illnesses such as pinkeye, diarrhea, or head lice, the child should be removed immediately.

If itís not really a communicable illness, youíll have to use your judgment. Pre-school age children always go through something.

The provider has to use their judgment and decide whatís really sick and whatís simply immune building.

The guidelines are pretty strict now for administering medication to children. Most providers canít even administer ointment on a cut, unless the parent has signed a consent form saying they can apply the antibiotic or ointment and they have a note from the childís doctor.

There are alternatives for parents who really need special care for a sick child. There are emergency specialists who will come into your home and in some cases, communities have sick day cares where you can bring your child.

If a parent doesnít have anybody else to turn to, the child care provider can provide a list of community resources where parents can find help. The local R&Rís usually have a list in hand of people whoíll receive sick kids.

As a care provider, I would have that information ready for my clients. The provider I use for my own children, for example, has another provider that covers her for holidays, when sheís sick, or if a parent has a sick child in an emergency.
Child Care provider Comments
Family child care provider for 4 years
A sick rule policy clearly explains - to parents - the guidelines set forth by a provider when a child is sick. Part of my responsibility as a child care provider, is to protect the children in my program from illness whenever possible.

Iíve lost clients because Iím firm with my policies. I had a child with head lice whose parent didnít want to come and get her since she had been at day care for several hours. The parent contended that it was OK to leave her since she had already been exposed to other children.

I asked the mother to pick her up right away, but she didnít show up for 2 hours. I was so adamant about my policy that the parent didnít return to the program.

Family child care provider for 2 years
It has to be an extreme situation for me to accept caring for a sick child. If I do accept a sick child, I keep them in an isolated section for the day.

But itís difficult, because I run a family child care Ė not a center Ė so thereís a limit as to how often I can accommodate sick children in the program.

Her children attend family child care
My son had a mild fever one day and I gave him medication before I dropped him off at the child care. Later in the afternoon, the provider called me at school and asked me to come and get him.

Another time, I had to pick up my son because of a bee sting. The provider asked me not to leave him alone because he had a knot on his foot; I had no idea the sting was so severe. When I picked him up, I had to hospitalize him.

It is hard as a parent or a student when your child is sick, because you still have to deliver in other areas of your life.

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