Monday, 1 June 2009

Risk Taking and Childminders

Taking risks with other people’s children

We all want our children to be safe... parents want to leave their child with a childminder or other setting and feel that they will be carefully monitored and that risks will be assessed so they do not come to any harm.

I know as a parent myself I would be distressed if anything happened to my child while he was in the care of another person. Would I sue a nursery if my child broke their leg while in their care? Possibly, because I would suffer from loss of earnings. Would the Nursery take it personally? Probably not, because nurseries are usually large concerns and their insurance company would deal with everything for them.

Now put yourself in the position of a childminder – the childminder takes 2 children to a park which she has previously risk assessed as safe. She is carefully watching one child who is on the slide when the other dashes off like a giddy thing straight into the path of a swing. The childminder calls the ambulance, deals with the children, writes up the incident when she gets home, informs Ofsted and RIDDOR... then the parent announces he is going to sue her.

There is a big difference between negligence and an accident, but nowadays the lines seem to be blurred. We are told, as childminders, by the media and other eminent professionals to allow children to take calculated risks and yet we run the risk at every turn of being sued by parents because their child has had an accident. For goodness sake, we have to hold on to our paperwork for 21 years and 6 months in case a young adult we used to look after decides to sue us for something that happened when she was a baby!

Does this mean we must wrap children in cotton wool, just in case..? no, good practice tells us that we should –

• Ask children questions which make them think about situations;

• Give children time to think and reply;

• Use books, road safety campaigns, websites etc to support their learning;

• Help children to explore risk, assessed depending on their age and stage of development;

• Write any behaviour goals with the children’s input;

• Remind children why you have asked them to do something eg can you remember why you should pick up the cars when you have finished playing with them?

• Show children how to use the mop and cloths if they have spilled water... etc

This is an interesting article if you want to learn more -

I have also discussed many different ways to enable children to consider their own safety in my e-book 24 ‘Safety Checklists’ which is available from my website.

Here’s to an accident free summer! 