“Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.” – Mark 9: 37
Parents should have knowledge on ways to keep church nurseries safe. The Parenting Resources on this page will guide you for things to address in your child’s environment. Parenting Resources includes a list of policies to put in place for keeping church nurseries safer. In the past, I have acted as an early childhood consultant for start-up child care centers: both profit and non-profit. In some instances, I worked with a committee on the feasibility of opening a church child care center. At other times, I reviewed the policies and guidelines in-place for keeping church nurseries safe. The most important aspect of developing policies and guidelines is to protect the children. There are many safety issues that can be avoided with careful planning.
In North Carolina, a licensed child care center director must have completed Early Childhood Administration I and II, among many other courses. After which, the individual will receive an Administrative Credential. These courses include some of the following topics: sanitation, safe and healthy environment, sound record-keeping, recognizing child abuse and neglect, mentoring teachers, caring for infants and toddlers, developmental domains, communication with families, etc. As a college instructor, I have taught those courses numerable times. It is my belief that all church child care centers and church nurseries should follow the same guidelines or close to the same guidelines when providing care to young children.
- The Space
The space should be well-vented with good natural lighting. The cubicle for storing the child’s personal supplies should be labeled. There should be open shelves to hold toys. (It is very dangerous to have toy chests in an environment with young children). A church nursery should not be in an isolated area. In addition, there should be a restroom and a fire exit nearby. The exit doors should not be locked from the outside, but the staff should be able to open the doors from the inside with one motion.
- Nursery Committee lead by the Nursery Coordinator
Develop a nursery committee and charge them with developing some of the policies listed below. The committee should be appointed by the church’s education committee. Think about the professionals that attend your church. Do you have a member with an early childhood education background? Other members could be parents of young children, grandparents, and teachers.
- Develop a Policies
- Develop a Mission Statement
- Develop a Guidelines and Procedure Manual
- Written manual should include discipline, child development, policies such as to have eye contact on children at all times, sanitation procedures, ages and stages, fire and emergency information, how to politely talk to parents/guardians, etc. I think there should be an entire training session on good customer service skills.
- Develop a Parent/Guardian Manual (hand this out to parents)
- Develop a Parent/Guardian ID/ Application (this is to remain on file)
- Develop an Emergency Manual
- Nursery Coordinator – The nursery coordinator should be responsible for scheduling the nursery workers. This individual should be responsible to train all the weekly nursery workers. She/he should keep the nursery organized and examine the space on a regular basis. If funds are available, this position should be compensated.
- Nursery Workers – (What are the qualifications of the nursery workers?)
- Conduct a background check on all nursery workers
- Train the nursery workers – provide a written manual
- CPR and First Aid – required (Arrange for the training at your facility).
- Regular meetings and training –lots of training on check-in and check-out procedure and customer service skills.
- Age level of the nursery worker (I would suggest that all nursery workers be 21 years old).
- Smock or apron
- This insures that the clothing is clean and it helps in identification of who is the nursery worker.
- Add an ID badge
- Adult/Child Ratio
- The ratio will vary depending upon the age of the children. An example of a good adult/child ratio is the following: Infants – 3 infants to 1 adult, 4 toddlers to 1 adult and 6 preschoolers to 1 adult. Children should NEVER be left alone for any reason.
- Supplies Needed
- Make a list of all the items that you may need to keep in stock in the nursery such as extra disposable diapers, rubber gloves, name tags with markers, wipes, disinfectants, plastic bags, etc.
- Communication with Families
- How to properly talk to families (Families are sensitive about their children and will take offense with an outspoken nursery worker). It is important to be able to share information with the parents/guardians.
- Provide a parent manual to each parent/guardian with pertinent information about the guidelines.
- What is the check-in procedure?
- Prior to children’s arrival, make sure that all items are safe and clean. Make sure that the room is safe with all outlets covered.
- All items brought to the center should be labeled including diaper bag, bottles, diapers, cups, etc.
- All children should have an information card on file before leaving the child. The information card should include photo of the child and the parents/guardian.
- All cribs or sleeping areas should be labeled.
- A cubby or bin should be assigned and labeled with child’s name.
- Attendance should be taken each Sunday.
- Have a sick policy – temperature, diarrhea, vomiting, colored nasal discharge, pink eye, etc. (This policy should be included in the parent/guardian manual).
- Get the parents’ cell phone number and ask that they have it on vibrate while they are attending the service or a prayer meeting so that the nursery staff can get in touch with the parents, if needed. There are other ways to address contacting the parent/guardian during the service.
- What is the check-out procedure?
- The nursery worker should either be familiar with the parent or refer to the information card with the Parent/guardian ID before releasing the child. The child should only be released to the documented individual that checked-in the child.
- Have all the children’s items packed for them to take with them.
- Talk to the parents/guardian about the child’s experience.
- ll toys should be sanitized and all linen removed to wash before leaving.
- All information should remain highly confidential. However, the nursery coordinator should teach all nursery workers how to recognize child abuse or neglect and if a child displays any signs of abuse or neglect, a report should be made to the proper agency, immediately.
- Emergency Procedures
- A manual on emergency procedures should be developed.
- A first aid kit should be in the room.
- Will snacks be fed? The committee should investigate safe food choices being aware of food allergies and foods that more prone to choking.
- Other Safety Concerns
- All nursery workers should have an orientation by the Nursery Coordinator
- Keep window cords away from children
- Cover electrical outlets
- Make sure that whatever is used to warm bottles is out-of-reach of children.
- Keep all cleaning items locked and out of reach
- Have safe cribs with slats that are spaced close together. (You should not be able to pass a can of soft drink between the slates). Some old cribs may be an accident waiting to happen.
- Practice SIDS prevention. Crib sheets should fit snugly. Do not use blankets or pillows in the crib. Put infant on their back while sleeping. Monitor the child closely.
- Develop a weekly check list to review the space looking for small objects on the floor and other safety concerns. This is important for outdoor play, too.
- Make sure that an adult is in charge and working directly with the infants and toddlers.
- All items in the space should be age appropriate. Remember, this age puts everything in their mouth.
I hope that these parent resources will be helpful. If you have additional information that would add to this list please let me know. I would love to include it. My goal is to add to the safety of young children.
Wanda Wyont, MA