What parents need to know when they trust their child with a center
One of the most difficult decisions a parent will ever make is finding the right childcare facility for their youngest family members.
While many consider cost and location, others are looking at how their child will be protected while in someone else’s hands and just who their caretakers are. Safety became a hot topic last month when three daycare workers were arrested, accused of abusing children at the TLC Child Care & Learning Center on U.S. 80 in Haughton.
There are currently 51 licensed daycare facilities in Bossier Parish, according to the Louisiana Department of Children & Family Services website.
Amy Schaefer, director of Little Sprouts Nursery & Schoolhouse, said safety is a top priority. She recently had a keypad security lock installed on the main door to her center, located at 4476 Viking Drive, as an additional safety measure.
“We have cameras in every classroom, on our playground and on our front door,” she explained. “I typically watch at least four rooms at a time if not all eight at once. They are recorded and stored for weeks at a time and our parents have access to our cameras from their computer and mobile devices as well.”
Schaefer said cameras play a vital role in her facility. Not only is she monitoring classrooms, but she is keeping an eye out for disciplinary issues.
“We want to make sure issues are handled correctly and follow our policy,” she said.
According to the Little Sprouts discipline policy, behavioral issues are not addressed with physical punishment. Instead, teachers use positive guidance, redirection and a limited setting to get a child back on track.
“The child will typically be separated from the group for a short time to think about their behavior and will rejoin the group after a short while,” their policy states.
Schaefer said one important thing she stresses to all of her teachers is that they are not to pull, tug or grab children by the arm when picking them up. Instead, teachers are told to lift a child from under the arm.
“This technique prevents shoulder jerking, which decreases the risk of shoulder sprains or any injuries that can harm the child,” she explained.
Little Sprouts, which opened seven months ago, is a Class B Childcare Center that serves children age six weeks to four years. Schaefer said she follows a strict employment procedure, including background checks and reference checks to ensure the applicant has a good record.
She also uses a mother’s intuition as the final approval.
“I know if they are right for the job,” she said, adding that most of her employees today are the ones she initially hired last year.
The three Haughton workers admitted to law enforcement officials that the acts of cruelty and battery of eight children, ranging in age from one- to four-years-old were allegedly slaps to the face, swats on the leg or head and pulling ears. Although none were seriously injured, the alleged abuse reportedly made the children cry and law enforcement did notify all parents of the children involved.
All three women are no longer employed by the daycare, according to a statement released by owner William Chase.
Schaefer said while it’s an unfortunate event, she wants the parents at her center to feel reassured every time they bring their children into her care.
“Our camera system is the number one accountability feature we have,” she said. “It was a big expense, but it was at the top of my list before we opened.”
If you do suspect a child is being harmed, call the DCFS Child Protection hotline at 1-855-4LA-KIDS (1-855-452-5437). For more information, visit www.dss.louisiana.gov.