Do You "Drop and Run" At Daycare When Your Kid Is Sick?

Parents Leaving Sick Kids at Child Care Before Illness is Noticed

sick kid in school

The "drop and run" syndrome, is when parents abruptly drop their kid at daycare before anyone has time to notice they are sick. "Drop and run" is more apparent during cold-and-flu seasons and other times of year when kids are more apt to develop cases of sniffles, coughs and fever. It's even been utilized for many childhood illnesses, such as severe cases of strep throat and highly-contagious illnesses such as pinkeye.



What can childcare providers do to avoid 'drop and run?'
 

Establish a sick policy at the daycare

It is much easier to discuss sick policies and "no attendance" rules with a parent if a policy is already in place. When looking at prospective daycares, ask about the policies. Having a sick policy established and requiring parents to acknowledge receipt of it and understanding puts the daycare center administrators in a position of strength of not taking a sick child.

Reference sick policies at area schools

If a nearby elementary school will not allow a child to attend class until after he is fever-free and has not thrown up in a designated amount of time (usually it is 24-48 hours), then the daycare should consider the same restrictions. Again, the center must consider the health of all children.

Train workers on steps to take if a drop and run is suspected

The manager should consider implementing rules that are clearly posted for parents that sick children will not be admitted until certain requirements are followed.

Depending on the illness, it is also reasonable to require a doctor's note that the child is able to attend daycare and be around other children.

Require staff to personally greet each child and parent before the child is left

This initial "hello" can quickly alert a trained caregiver that a child is not well.

If certain symptoms are noted or the child seems particularly lethargic or whiny, or demonstrates other out-of-character behavior, a staff member should indicate more conversation is needed. Ask the parent directly questions about the child and health.

Speak with a sick kid directly

Young kids, even those who don't feel well, will often quickly talk about how they threw up all night or had to take baths to make them not so hot. If fever is suspected, ask a parent to wait while a child's temperature is taken.

Updated by Jill Ceder

When providers must tell a parent no to child care

Providers must be prepared to tell a parent (even a desperate one) that their sick child cannot be accepted at care if apparent signs of illness exist and it is felt others will be exposed to sickness. Caregivers must also be prepared for parents to become angry or even threaten to withdraw their child. Day care operators know that parents wouldn't bring their child for care when ill unless they felt they didn't have another viable option. Some day care centers may even offer sick child care, usually at a higher daily rate. If parents have this option, they may be grateful for this alternative. But, in the end, a manager should not feel forced into providing care for a sick child, which would require designated staff, health concerns, and a mob of angry parents who don't understand why their child was exposed to an illness needlessly. This can be an extraordinary difficult task, but in the end, overall kid safety is something everyone can agree to.

When a child is found to be sick while at care

Providers should have an agreement in place for pick-up/other arrangements when a child is sick. Sometimes, kids can seem fine one minute and then become ill the next. Typically, daycare centers are accustomed to kids' illnesses that can creep up over a day, and determination is usually made whether a kid just needs some extra R&R or the parent needs to be called. But providers also need to have a plan in place when they discover they are the victim of a "drop and run" incident. This commonly occurs when a child seems quiet but mostly okay for the first few minutes or hour, then begins becoming feverish again, or worse, throwing up or displaying other outward symptoms of being sick. A policy that is already agreed to should be implemented, and contact with a parent made on a priority basis. Some facilities require parents to pay for extra staff time and associated cleaning costs; others have a standard "up charge" and still others simply absorb extra staff costs as part of the business of being in child care.

What should parents do to avoid the temptation of 'drop and run' care?

No loving parent wants to impose a sick child on anyone. But while it is easy to recognize that most ill kids simply want to be in bed sleeping or perhaps on the couch laying around and watching cartoons, it is not always so easy from a working parent perspective. Parents must keep the perspective as to how they would feel if another family brought a kid with a contagious disease and exposed their child, or if a neighbor let the kids play together only hours after being diagnosed with a contagious illness. That having been said, here are things parents can do now to minimize the feeling of "not having a choice" about what to do when a child is sick.

  • Determine what the workplace rules are concerning a sick child. Adults should find out this information before a need arises. Spouses should compare notes as to flexibility and arrangements. Some companies even offer working parents options surrounding sick child care, or provide the option of working from home or other such flexible arrangements.
  • Research any sick care options for kids. In some larger communities, local hospitals and certain Daycare centers have sick care. The irony of it, however, is that in many cases advance notice is required, and parents would love to "know" in advance when their child might become ill. Consider whether there is a neighbor, relative, or other adult who might be willing to come over and stay with a sick child on short notice. The key is knowing too whether a sick child simply needs recovery time or whether needs medical attention or is highly infectious and contagious. Sometimes, all a sick kid needs is lots of rest and fluids, and will be back bouncing around in no time. In other situations, the recovery may be lengthier or involve treatment or visits to the doctor.
  • Keep the daycare provider informed about your child's health. If possible, contact your caregiver if your child will be out and indicate the reason. The provider can then be on the lookout for others with this illness to help other parents know as well. You'd hope other parents extend the same courtesy. After all, typically your child contracted his illness from someone else or in some contagious environment.
  • Practice proper hand washing and cough techniques at all times. Parents need to take extra steps to keep themselves from contracting the illness, and all members of the household should be reminded about the importance of handwashing and covering a cough. This will keep your home from becoming a sick ward in most cases.
  • Know that kids will get sick. If parents will just follow the rule of "doing unto others" then the spread of colds, strep, flu, pinkeye, fifth disease, and the host of other ailments can at least be minimized. Before long, everyone will be back in a happy and health routine.

Continue Reading