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The Role of Professional Child Care Providers in Preventing and Responding to Child Abuse and Neglect
Office on Child Abuse and Neglect, Children's Bureau. Karageorge, Kathy, Kendall, Rosemary|
|Year Published: 2008|
Preventing and Responding to Child Abuse and Neglect: The Role of Family Child Care Providers
The role of family child care providers in preventing and in responding to child abuse and neglect is similar in many ways to that of staff in other child care programs. Family child care providers also are mandated to report suspected child abuse or neglect and, therefore, have the same need for training in its recognition and reporting. Additionally, many of the strategies for caring for maltreated children or for children at risk of maltreatment and for supporting their parents are the same whether the child is in a center-based program or in a family child care home.
Family child care providers are often more likely than center staff to form close relationships with parents or they may even be related to the children in their care. They also may reside in the same community or neighborhood as the children and their families. Because of this close contact, providers may know more about a family's situation than a center's providers would. These personal relationships may help family child care providers offer parents needed preventive or early intervention supports. While personal relationships can help providers detect possible abuse or neglect, they also can make it more difficult to report.
Family child care providers can protect the children in their care by being knowledgeable about and by following any applicable licensing or other regulations, by receiving appropriate training, and by incorporating sound child care practices.
Licensing and Regulations
State licensing regulations list rules about how to keep children safe while they are in nonparental care. Regulations cover issues ranging from the child-adult ratios, the requirements for criminal records checks, the pretraining and ongoing training requirements, and other issues, ranging from the use of kiddy pools to putting infants on their backs to sleep. Family child care providers should consult with their State licensing agency to find out which regulations apply to them. A list of State licensing agencies is available from the National Child Care Information and Technical Assistance Center (NCCIC) at http://www.nccic.org/statedata/dirs/display.cfm?title=licensing. The licensure regulations from the 50 States and the District of Columbia also are available on the website for the National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care and Early Education at http://nrc.uchsc.edu.
Accreditation is available to family child care providers through the National Association for Family Child Care (NAFCC). NAFCC accreditation standards cover the following content areas: relationships, environment, activities, developmental learning goals, safety and health, and professional and business practices.
Tip for Parents: Checking Family Child Care Provider Backgrounds
In 48 States, including the District of Columbia, family child care providers are licensed.68 States vary on which providers are required to be licensed, usually depending on the number of children in care. In some of the States that license family child care providers, providers are required to have background checks, but in States where some providers are not required to be licensed, parents have fewer assurances that the providers have no previous abuse or neglect convictions or criminal records. For families that use family child care providers, it is the parents' responsibility to make sure the providers meet licensing and registration requirements, check the provider's references, and monitor the care children receive.
In many States, family child care providers are required to have regular training in preventing, recognizing, and reporting child abuse and neglect and in working with families after a report has been made. This training usually is available from a variety of resources, including child care licensing agencies, child protective services (CPS), child care resource and referral agencies, colleges and universities, and professional organizations. Although family child care providers may be required to have training, they generally are responsible for finding and for paying for it themselves.
Family Child Care Practices
Many of the procedures listed in Chapter 4, Minimizing the Risk of Maltreatment in Child Care Programs, will be useful to family child care providers. There are, however, additional considerations for family child care providers about how they run their businesses.
Keeping the home safe. Since care is provided in homes, family providers need to plan strategies to meet the challenges of keeping the environment safe for children, both in terms of adequate supervision and in limiting the access of anyone not associated with the actual care of the children.
Developing relationships with community resources. In a center, the directors or the family services workers are likely to develop a relationship with the community programs that provide support for parents; in family child care homes, this responsibility falls directly on the family child care providers.
Reducing stress and preventing burnout. Because there may be no other adult caregivers around, family child care providers should take steps to reduce stress and to avoid burnout that could lead to the abuse or neglect of children in their care, especially those with challenging behaviors. To decrease the risk of abuse or neglect in their homes, providers should identify supports that reduce their isolation and that provide resources. In addition, family care providers need to have a plan for backup support to care for the children in emergencies or when the provider is ill.
Establishing policies and procedures. Family providers who are accused of abuse or neglect are in a more difficult, vulnerable position than those in other centers. While there may be no witnesses to corroborate the accusations, there also might be no witnesses to protect the providers. One form of protection is to have policies and procedures in place that demonstrate that high-quality care is planned and to document activities throughout the day. Depending on the jurisdiction, a family child care provider who is accused of child abuse or neglect will be investigated by either CPS or the police. This is a serious situation, and providers should obtain legal counsel. Chapter 6, Responding to Allegations of Child Maltreatment in Child Care Programs, describes how centers should respond to accusations and also applies to family child care providers.
Dealing with threats to safety. Family child care providers who are confronted by an angry parent have fewer protections than a provider in a center. If family child care providers feel that they or the children in their care are being threatened, they should make sure that the children are safe and contact the local law enforcement agency.
Assisting maltreated children. The challenging behaviors of maltreated children may cause problems for family child care providers who may have little professional support or respite in managing the behavior of children who are acting out because of abuse or neglect. However, a family child care home where there are fewer children and more individual attention may be the environment in which these children thrive.
Building on their personal and professional commitments, some child care providers believe their faith plays an important role in their efforts to support and to protect children and families. Some child care providers choose to work in religiously affiliated organizations that provide child care services. According to one report, nearly 1 out of 6 child care centers is housed in a religious facility.69 These programs offer a broad range of service options from a Parents' Day Out, which provides "drop-off" child care to anyone in the neighborhood who needs it for several hours once a week, to a fully licensed preschool utilizing a curriculum.
Many of the largest denominations' child care centers rival corporate centers in the size of the facilities, the number of children enrolled, and the services offered. Licensing requirements for faith-based providers vary from State to State; however, all child care providers are mandated by law in every State to report any suspected child maltreatment.
For more information on faith-based child care, visit the NCCIC website at http://www.nccic.org/poptopics/faithbased-res.html.
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