One of the most important roles parents and caregivers serve is to ensure that the children entrusted to them thrive in healthy and safe environments, stresses LSU AgCenter child-care associate Cheri Gioe.
Gioe points out that Louisiana actually has legislation to ensure children have the opportunity to grow and learn in healthy and safe environments, as well.
"There are statutes to ensure for the safety and well-being of all children attending child-care programs," Gioe said, adding that many of the regulations are in the minimum standards for licensed day care facilities. "Such regulations are overseen by the Louisiana Department of Social Services and are contained in the minimum standards for Class A Child Day Care facilities."
The practices and policies to ensure healthy children included in those standards include:
–Daily Health Checks. Child-care providers are supposed to visually check children daily for bumps, bruises, rashes and so forth. Should a child exhibit any signs or symptoms, these must be documented.
–Hand Washing. Hand washing is one of the easiest ways to prevent the spread of contagious diseases. Child-care providers are required to wash hands prior to handling food, changing diapers or dispensing medicines. They also must wash hands after changing diapers or wiping children’s noses or mouths.
–Immunizations. The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals requires child-care programs to keep records on childhood immunizations of the children in their care. For children to enroll in a child-care program or continue enrollment, it is mandatory that their immunizations be kept current.
–Illness Policies. Child-care programs must have policies pertaining to illnesses. These policies are mandated by the Louisiana Department of Social Services in an effort to prevent the spread of contagious illnesses and protect the children enrolled in child-care programs.
–Sanitizing. It is mandatory that child-care providers sanitize surfaces where children have their diapers changed and surfaces where children are served food or eat. A solution of bleach and water is recommended and must be mixed daily to ensure antibacterial properties.
–Gloves. It is required that child-care providers wear gloves when serving food or changing diapers. Gloves must be changed between diaper changes.
–Sleeping Arrangements. Cots, mats and cribs must be at least 18 inches apart while children are sleeping. In addition, children should be placed head to toe.
Among the practices and policies included in the minimum standards to ensure child safety are:
–CPR. At least 50 percent of the child-care center staff present during operating hours at the center must be certified in infant/child/adult CPR.
–First Aid. During operating hours, 50 percent of the child-care center staff must be certified in first aid.
–Food Safety. Class A child-care programs must serve meals and snacks. Frozen foods must be kept below 30 degrees at all times. Refrigerated foods must be kept at a temperature of 34-36 degrees. Dishes must be washed in a three-compartment sink, with one compartment containing bleach water – or they must be washed in a dishwasher with water hotter than 180 degrees. In addition, kitchen employees must practice general safe food handling procedures by following the three Cs – Cool It, Clean It, Cook It.
–Drawstrings. It is requested of parents not send children to school with items of clothing containing drawstrings, since those may pose a choking hazard.
–Cribs. Cribs must be placed at least 18 inches apart and have slats that are no more than 2.375 inches apart. In addition, children should be placed in the cribs on their backs. Mattresses and bedding also should fit snugly to prevent suffocation.
–Safety Gates. Child-care employees must ensure that safety gates are installed appropriately and used to keep children away from potentially dangerous situations. Accordion style safety gates are prohibited.
–Locked Cabinets. Cabinets containing medications, cleaning supplies, air fresheners or any hazardous chemical must be kept locked.
–Recalled Products. All child-care programs are required by the state Attorney General’s Office to keep track of recalled products.
–Outlets/Cords. All electrical outlets must be covered and cords secured.
–First-aid Supplies. Child-care programs must have first-aid supplies readily available on site and in all vehicles.
–Fire Drills. All child-care programs are required to conduct emergency drills monthly. At least two drills per year must be conducted during rest time.
The LSU AgCenter’s "Be Child Care Aware!" educational program is designed to educate parents and child-care providers about quality child care. It is funded, in part, through a contract with the Louisiana Department of Social Services’ Office of Family Support.