Is my Child’s Daycare Center Safe?
New parents face one of the most difficult decisions they must make for their young children when determining what to do about childcare. When looking for a daycare facility, there are many important factors to look in to. These include teacher/student ratios, accreditation and parent feedback. One other consideration is the security in place at the center. In addition to caring for your child’s overall well-being, the center must provide a safe and secure environment for children, staff and parents.
When shopping for a daycare, be sure to take a tour and look for these essential components.
- Controlled Access to the Facility
Parents and visitors access the center through only one access point. The door should be locked for entry and require a unique code or card reader for access. Staff can also unlock the door through a phone entry system. A vestibule entry system allows access from the outside but still controls entry into the facility itself. Finally, perimeter fences with exit only points should be in place around the entire facility, including the playground.
- Electronic Check in/Check out
The staff needs to have an accurate accounting of all students on site at all times. An electronic sign-in system for parents provides a real-time record of who is present at all times.
- Compliant Fire Alarm System
Daycare facilities have strict requirements for their fire alarm system. They must have a schedule of inspections and fire drills, among other things. Ask the daycare for details about their fire protection plan.
- Identification Validation
ID should be required by anyone picking up a child to validate they are authorized to pick up. This can be done through an electronic system where the person must swipe or scan their ID or manually by staff.
In addition to these essential items, there are a number of other things parents should expect in a high quality daycare facility.
- Video Cameras
Parents should be able to watch their child in his/her primary classroom and other areas of the facility throughout the day. The video should be of good enough quality that details can be seen and children are easily identified. Ask the director about video recording – do the cameras record and how long is the footage kept. If there is ever an incident a parent is worried about, they will want access to view the video.
- Panic Buttons
A panic button is a direct line to police dispatch. The alarm monitoring company bypasses all other preset instructions and contacts the police right away if a panic signal comes in. Ask the director if they have panic buttons and if not, what are their emergency procedures.
- External Video Cameras
Daycares are a prime spot for thieves looking to snatch a purse or laptop. It is very common for a parent to leave their purse or other items in the car while they quickly “run in” to get their child. Video cameras in the parking area and driveway deter these opportunists from targeting the facility.
Questions to Ask
When touring a daycare facility, ask a lot of questions in addition to those included above to determine whether security is a priority for them. Ask about their lockdown procedures in case of an emergency or potential threat nearby. Also confirm in advance how parents will be notified of any incident at the school, whether it is a scraped knee or a gas leak. Be sure there is a system in place to verify your identity when you call the facility. This could be a passcode or some other preset identifier.
Trust your instincts most of all. If your questions are met with resistance or defensiveness, this may not be the place for your child. A daycare director knows there is nothing worth protecting more than a child, and should respect every parent’s interest in understanding what security measures are in place. While the effort may be a challenge, the peace of mind from knowing your child is safe and happy makes it all worthwhile.