When providing after-school care, you are responsible for always keeping the children and teenagers safe. While some accidents are unavoidable, constantly looking for opportunities to improve safety and reduce risks will ensure the safest environment to care for school-aged children.
Administrators are responsible for preventing accidents and illnesses. With the right policies and oversight, you can comply with your state’s licensing requirements while reducing the likelihood of student injury.
Here are the steps you should take if you’re looking to provide the best after-school environment with unmatched safety.
After School Care Safety Tips
Exceed expectations and build the safest, most-respected after-school care center in your area with these safety tips.
- Supervise Children Based on Age
If you run a childcare center and after-school care, it can be challenging to adjust your thinking to older children. School-aged children need care commensurate to their age. More self-sufficient children you can trust do not need the same level of care as babies and toddlers.
Having two or three staff members available to answer children’s questions, help with homework, and find engaging activities for them to enjoy after the school day can be adequate. While the children won’t need much care, placing only one teacher in the room might not be a good idea in case anything happens or the teacher needs to escort the child to another area of the facility.
- Train Staff
Staff needs proper training to ensure the health and safety of children of all ages. Ensure staff receives the proper certifications to meet licensing requirements. Always run background checks on new staff. But you should also complete these important activities to build processes and set staff expectations.
- Write out your health and safety processes in a manual and review it annually with your staff
- Drop in on teachers regularly to ensure they are following their training
- Require that staff members submit copies of their first aid and CPR training
- Ensure that there is always an adult with CPR training in the room
Ideally, you should hire staff who have undergone early childhood education or specialized education training. This will ensure your staff is skilled in all important aspects of running your center.
- Ask Health Questions at Check-in
It’s rare to operate an after-school care center and never experience children with cold or flu symptoms. Build a health and safety program that tells teachers what to do if a child’s symptoms seem severe so that you know when to call the parents to pick the child up.
But you also need to plan for children who suffer from chronic conditions and need added care. When writing out your health and safety plans, ensure it outlines the following.
- Request that parents administer medication at home whenever possible.
- When children need medication throughout the day, tell parents they must bring the medication in its original container with the doctor’s dosing instructions.
- During enrollment, ask questions about a child’s allergies so you can record them in their file.
- Set reminders for teachers about when they must administer medication.
If parents need you to administer medication, you should have the parent sign an authorization form so that you’ve documented your rights to administer the medication and the instructions for how to do so.
Ask questions about medication storage and handling. Document this data carefully. Place all immunization records on file in compliance with your state’s licensing requirements.
Enforce stringent handwashing procedures. You should require that students wash their hands before and after handling food. Ask children to wash their hands after blowing their nose or sneezing.
For outdoor activities, require that children wear sunscreen or are in shaded areas. If parents have a strong preference for what sunscreen the child applies, ensure parents are labeling and dropping off this preferred sunscreen.
- Play Area Safety
Children are most likely to suffer an injury while out on the playground. Older children are more likely to test their limits or encourage one another to try dangerous activities while engaging in gross motor play. Monitor children at all times and discourage dangerous behavior or behavior where children are making one another do things they might not want to do.
Older children tend to be harder on toys and play equipment than younger children. You should constantly monitor toy safety. Throw it away when a toy is broken or a sharp edge is exposed.
Inspect surfaces regularly for damaged flooring or other tripping hazards to prevent accidents. While older children are more steady on their feet, they also move quickly and expect a safe environment for play.
Keep older children in separate play areas from younger children. Larger children could accidentally knock a younger child over without even realizing it.
Clean and disinfect play areas and toys frequently to reduce the likelihood of transmitting illnesses among students.
- Build an Emergency Plan
No matter where your center is located, you risk severe weather. You might face seismic activity or the threat of fire. After-school care centers must have emergency preparedness plans to ensure you know when and how to notify parents in case of an emergency.
Your emergency planning should include the following activities.
- Review and maintain an emergency plan. Require that students and staff undergo fire drills, lock-down procedure reviews, and other drills to ensure everyone knows what to do in case of emergency
- Inspect fire extinguishers and smoke detectors frequently and change the batteries twice a year.
- Keep an emergency supply kit.
- Educate parents on your emergency plan and communicate school closures on snow days.
- When you conduct a drill or lock-down practice, document it.
6. Protect Students from Toxic and Poisonous Materials
Accidental poisoning deaths in children have been steadily decreasing since 1972, thanks to improved education and understanding of dangerous materials. But your center must remain vigilant in protecting children from toxins and poisons.
Keep bleach and all toxic materials and medications locked away from children. Older children can reach and climb to get to things like younger children cannot. So in after-school program rooms, you can’t just put materials up high. It would be best if you locked them up.
Here are some tips for avoiding poisoning in after-school care facilities:
- Lock cabinets where you store medication, cleaning products, and other hazardous materials.
- Never store cleaning supplies and food in the same place where they could suffer cross-contamination
- Place poison control contact information near phones and throughout classrooms in case of an emergency.
iCare Software offers modern technology to help after-school programs protect students while building a leading program parents will want to enroll their children in. Documenting important procedures and student records in a secure yet easy-to-access location can also help make your after-school care facility safe for students. Schedule a free demo now to see how the software works.