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Governor Locke names April 'Child Abuse Prevention Month'
Children younger than school age may spend up to 50 hours per week with a child care provider, so the choice of a facility is one of the most important decisions parents or caregivers will make about the safety and well-being of their children.
Gov. Gary Locke has proclaimed April as Child Abuse Prevention Month. Rachael Langen, director of the Department of Social and Health Service (DSHS) Division of Child Care and Early Learning, has some tips on finding safe and nurturing child care.
"Choosing a child care provider is much more involved than scouring ads in the local newspaper or on supermarket bulletin boards," said Langen.
Parents can get help choosing a child care facility by going to their local Resource and Referral Network, which is supported financially by the Division of Child Care and Early Learning. The Web site is www.childcarenet.org.
"DSHS requires child care providers to adhere to state licensing requirements ranging from limits on how many children can be cared for at a time to ensuring that children have age-appropriate toys and games," said Langen. "But parents need to form a partnership with their child care providers and be ever vigilant in monitoring their child's care."
For example, Langen said parents should never decide on using a particular child care provider without visiting prospective child care providers and talking to other parents who send their children to them. Parents should make a follow-up visit with their child to determine if the child is comfortable in the surroundings and there is a good initial rapport among the child, the provider and the other children in the facility.
"Once parents decide on a child care provider, they need to take an active role in determining whether the parents' and the child's needs are being met," Langen said. "That includes surprise visits. If the parent is not welcomed by the provider when he or she arrives unannounced, it should raise a red flag. Parents have the right and responsibility to see how their children are being cared for."
If a child is verbal, Langen said parents should ask questions about the child's daily activities - what games the children played, what they had for lunch, whether they left the provider's premises, whether they were cared for by someone other than the licensed provider and whether they had problems with the provider, a worker or other children.
If the child is not verbal, Langen suggests parents observe the child's behavior for changes.
"Danger signs would include a child who is fearful, withdrawn, complaining, clinging or exhibiting appetite change and bedwetting," Langen said. "Be alert for caregivers who appear to be overwhelmed, angry or moody. We need to remember we all have bad days, but if you see a pattern, parents should be concerned."
On the other hand, Langen said that parents also have a responsibility for helping their child care providers give the best care possible.
"It is important for parents to form a partnership with their child's provider," she said. ""Parents should be prompt in paying their providers and picking up their children at the agreed upon time. They should share their work schedules, emergency phone numbers and changes in the child's routine at home."
Langen also suggested that parents get involved with child care activities by volunteering to help with field trips, fund raisers and providing snacks.
"If children are eager to go to the facility every morning, are playing happily when parents arrive to pick them up and talk positively about friends, activities and the provider, then the parents have probably made a good choice in their child care provider," Langen said.
Hotlines to help
parents and children
More information to help parents find appropriate child care is available at www1.dshs.wa.gov /esa/dccel/parents.shtml.
The Web site tells parents how to check on the previous licensing issues with a child care facility and how to file complaints about licensing issues.
In addition, parents may call for information about child care providers at 1-866-48-CHECK (1-866-482-4325).
Anyone who suspects a child may be the victim of abuse or neglect, may call DSHS toll-free 1-866-END HARM (1-866-363-4276).
Child Abuse Prevention
The statewide Child Abuse Prevention Month Coalition has compiled a "Child Abuse Prevention Resources" Web site. The address is: www1.dshs.wa.gov/ geninfo/capmonth.html.
The coalition includes the Washington Department of Social and Health Services ,Washington Council for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (WCPCAN),
Washington State CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates), Children's Hospital and Regional Medical Center, and Childhaven.