Monday, September 25, 2006

One Child Left Behind

Today I had the opportunity to witness a child being left behind. I thought we had a plan in place for that. Some act or something.

There were so many things about this experience that made me sick. Here's the story:

I was walking into the park with 2 of the Punks just as a large group of kids (maybe 15) and several (3 maybe 4) caregivers were on their way out. They were lined up two by two, all neat and purty. One of the teachers asked if everyone had their sweatshirts. About 8 or 9 minutes later a dad at the park asked if one of the little girls on the climbing structure was with us. Yeah, they freakin' forgot a kid. They got all of the sweatshirts, but they forgot a 3 year old.

Isn't it standard practice to count the kids from time to time to make sure you're watching them all? Hell, I only have 3 and I do it. So, the dad literally jumped the fence, left his 2 kids in the park and ran across the street and down a bit after the teachers. They were completely out of sight. He came walking back after a few moments with one of the teachers. As they approached the fence the teacher saw fit to sternly speak to the child about how she should have listened. Not a hug, not a reassurance. A lecture. Lovely.

Now I know that teacher must have been completely freaked out. She had to be afraid for her job. But she immediately shifted the blame to the 3 year old. I looked at my kids swinging cluelessly on the swings. I know that accidents happen and mistakes are made. I also know that when you screw something up you can gain a lot of ground by simply 'fessing up and offering a sincere apology. From a business standpoint you can either save an irate customer by handling a mistake well, or you can lose that customer and 20 others because you dropped the ball and boy are they going to share their experience with the world. From a parent's perspective you can take a big giant step towards establishing peace by 'fessing up and apologizing, or teaching your kid to come clean. I know people screw things up. I really needed to know that these folks were going to take responsibility for their great big mistake. I also needed for someone to suggest to that caregiver that a hug may have gone a bit further with that scared kid than a freakin' lecture.

Back at home I called the center. My goal was to simply say, "Hey, I know this happened and it's a really difficult situation, but there is this other little piece, too. The one where the teacher blamed the kid." And I wanted to hear something like, "Yes, very hard. Thanks for taking the time to call and tell me, I'll be sure to talk with dumbass about that." It did not go well. I never even got there. I asked to speak to the center director. Now, when I start a phone call I typically introduce myself and if the other person does not do the same then I politely ask who the hell I am speaking with (but politely). This lovely person wouldn't tell me her name. She simply asked how she could help me. I calmly explained that I was a member of the community and simply would prefer to know the name of the person to whom I was speaking. She still would not tell me. I fairly calmly told her that I would call the main program (this was a branch of a larger Head Start Program) and that the reason I was calling was to discuss the fact that a kid was left at the playground today. At this point I was admittedly snarky. She breathed in sharply and said she was aware of the incident. I hung up. I had to. I had lost all hope that this woman could effectively blow her own nose let alone handle this situation. I hung up.

Why the hell didn't she give me her name? Do we even need to talk about customer service? I could've been a prospective parent. I could've been a licenser for Pete's sake. Had she simply introduced herself, the conversation would have been entirely different. I almost promise it. The reason I was calling was simply to share my concern about the way that the child was greeted after having been abandoned. Now, what reason could she have for protecting her identity like it was the freakin' Hope diamond? For the love of Pete. Is she on America's Most Wanted? Is she being stalked? Is she in the witness protection plan? What was her point?

I called the parent program and shared all of my concerns. All signs point to the fact that the local branch is being led by a complete ninny. I alluded to this fact. Some blah-blah supervisor is supposed to call me back. We'll see.

I find the timing of this incident very interesting as I am in the middle of writing an article on "Chosing the Right Child Care" for Career Mom Radio. For the record, I am not at this time suggesting that you leave your goldfish in the care of the center mentioned above.


Anonymous said...

Hey Megin- It's Whitney From Podcamp and the LD Podcast. If you want, I would be happy to give you the number of my mother in law- She used to be the inspectors for child care centers in Dade and Broward Counties, FL and has run pre-schools. She is currently teaching classes for daycare providers. She has helped us find and identify quality child care, and I am sure she'd be happy to help you out.
I find that alot of people are defensive whne they do something wrong or a mistake is made, and lash out rather than doing what we all want our kids to learn to do, which is accept responsibility for a situation, and make sure the staff/family members/etc. are trained and know what to do if such a situation arises again. As I tell the 8 yr old for years now- we all make mistakes and have accidents, but yelling "It was an Accident!" does NOT mean you aren't responsible for what happened- you still are responsible for trying to make it right, whether it's cleaning up spiled milk and not leaving it for Mom, or paying for damage you did in a car accident through insurance, or whatever- responsibility and stepping up to the plate is the name of the game.
So many parents don't get this, and blindly defend their kids even when the child has been part of the problem- I try to help my kids see what part they had in any conflict, and how to avoid, make different choices next time, etc. Rick LaVoie refers to this as a social autopsy- taking apart a situation and looking and what can be learned and improved on- this is what morbidity and mortality conferences in hospitals do all the time. Unfortunately in this situation, the child and the institution could have had much more desparate outcomes, and their self- examination should be much more thorough before the sopcial autop[sy ends up in the morgue.
(maybe a bit graphic, sorry.)
All my best-
The LD Podcast

Wes said...

I agree with Whitney. Hopefull the lady in question was scared shitless, but you got to move beyond that and put the child first. If you fail to get satisfaction from the director, I highly recommend you file a complaint with the state and let them know you failed to get satisfaction by going through the proper channels.

The stupid stuff people do these days just doesn't suprise me. The blind leading the blind so to speak.

Meg said...

Hi Whitney and Wes,
Thanks so much for your thoughts. Really great stuff and nothing at all that I don't agree with.

When people know that they screwed up all defenses go up. I think if your chosen field is kids in any format, your first defense should be a hug. The teacher's reaction was wrong and that made me so sad. I'm all steamed up about the treatment from the center director.

My dear husband currently operates 2 childcare centers, and has in his career overseen oh, I don't know- 50 centers. I am so happy to have access to all of his resources. I have, in fact, had him chained up in the attic on this particular issue. He feels an intense need to jump right in.

I got a call back this morning and the supervisor and I are currently playing phone tag.

Stay turned.

Meg said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Mia Goddess said...

ugh. Not everybody should be working with kids. Good luck, because we need more concerned citizens as advocates; kids can't always speak for themselves.

Stu said...


Wow, good for you. Being an advocate for the improvement of any system is tough. No one says thanks, no one says "Thank goodness you said something". You show bravery and a higher focus. As I'm a parent, I say "Thanks" for looking out for the little ones.

As for the blaming the three-year old thing, I would point the teacher to my post, The Person Isn't The Problem, The Problem Is The Problem.

STBD said...

As I recall from my limited experience with learning centers (I used to date a girl who worked at one), the instructors there are never supposed to be in the wrong when compared to the kids, yet are always in the wrong when compared to their supervisors. It's an interesting dichotomy, and the turnover rate at this particular center was very high (though not as high as it should have been).

Self-preservation unfortunately trumps "the right thing to do" in most situations, which makes me think someone ought to be re-teaching the teachers every so often...

Karen said...

Wow-- good for you for taking all this action to improve that day care center. I'm sure your phone call did a lot to keep them on their toes.