Child Care Licensing
Support initiative to help stop illegally operating providers
The 83rd Texas Legislature has provided resources for Child Care Licensing to hire additional staff to address the risk to children being cared for in illegally operating child care facilities. Previously the agency became aware of illegal operations only when it received a report, often serious. The additional staff will enable Licensing to proactively find, investigate, and, when appropriate, assist illegally operating providers to become licensed, registered or listed, or ensure that they close.
Illegal operations are those providers that do not have the appropriate permit and do not meet exemption criteria. As you know, illegal operations are not inspected and do not meet background check, physical environment, training, and other basic health and safety requirements. Without these basic protections, children are often placed in dangerous situations.
In fiscal year 2012, for example, Licensing investigated 943 reports of illegal operations. Of the 20 child fatalities investigated by Licensing, eight occurred in illegal child care operations, accounting for 40 percent of all child death investigations in FY12.
You can help support the new initiative by doing the following:
Educate parents about the benefits of choosing regulated care. Parents can find helpful information at www.DontBeInTheDark.org.
Refer prospective providers to www.TXchildcaresearch.org to learn more about licensing and regulation and obtain the necessary permit to operate.
Report unregulated care to your local licensing office or the intake line at 1-800-252-5400 or www.TxAbuseHotline.org.
Plan for children’s outdoor play in winter
Finding a balance between children’s routine outdoor play needs and the appearance of winter weather can challenge child care programs. The American Association of Pediatrics reminds us that children need to stay physically active, even as temperatures fall. And for children of all ages, the minimum standard rules require daily opportunities in the morning and afternoon for outdoor play as weather permits.
As you seek a balance, consider the following factors.
Know your children’s needs. Children, especially infants and children with some chronic medical conditions, lose body heat more quickly than adults.
Remind parents to provide layers of clothing to maximize comfort both indoors and out. Essential items include jackets, long pants, hats, gloves or mittens, socks, and warm shoes or boots. Be cautious about the use of scarves and jackets with strings because these can present a strangulation hazard.
Set reasonable time limits on outdoor play.
Keep children well hydrated. Plenty of warm fluids will help maintain body temperature and prevent dehydration.
Don’t forget sunscreen for extended periods of outdoor play.
Understand the weather
Check the weather report, heed advisories and warnings, and be ready for sudden changes in weather conditions. Check local weather forecasts at www.nws.noaa.gov.
Note that temperatures above 40 degrees Fahrenheit are generally considered suitable for routine outdoor play. However, wind chill and humidity also play a role in the health impact of the base temperature. If the wind chill factor is at or below 15 degrees Fahrenheit, use your judgment.
Maintain equipment safety
Regularly inspect outdoor equipment for signs of wear and tear. As temperatures change, playground materials expand, contract, or may become brittle.
Pay attention to playground surfacing. As temperatures drop, some surface materials tend to lose their resiliency. Because the majority of playground injuries occur as a result of falls, more injuries are likely as the impact absorption of the surface decreases.
Take it indoors
Have a plan for indoor activity so that children still receive the benefit of physical activity when weather conditions prohibit outdoor play.
Think about the safety of the indoor play environment. Is it part of your licensed space? Is the size large enough to safely accommodate the activity planned? Could any items in the space present a hazard when the activity being conducted in the area is different from its typical use? Are you maintaining required ratios and group sizes?
Prevent colds and flu
Note that cold weather does not cause colds or flu. The viruses that cause colds and flu tend to be more common in the winter, when children are in closer contact with one another in enclosed environments.
Have children and adults wash their hands often. Hand washing is the single most effective way to reduce the spread of infection in a child care setting.
Teach children to sneeze or cough in the bend of their elbow. Using the elbow instead of hands may also help reduce the spread of viruses.
Children of any age benefit from playing outdoors in all except the most extreme weather. Daily outdoor play encourages gross-motor development, provides an environment ripe with opportunities for imagination to blossom, and promotes good health through the exposure to fresh outdoor air.
With a little forethought and appropriate precautionary measures, colder temperatures don’t have to prevent outdoor play time, and a winter day outdoors really can be a safe, healthy wonderland.