Written By:  Tiffany Verzal @ Stand with Faith

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2011, 70.6 percent of mothers with children under the age of 18 are employed.  That means that there are a lot of children in daycare.  Due to the nature of Alexis’ injury, the subject of daycare comes up in many different forms when I have conversations with people.

I can’t begin to count the number of times that, after telling Alexis’ story, I have heard, “That’s why I don’t put my child in daycare.”  I’ve also heard, “I’ve been trying to decide if I should go back to work, now I am not going to.”  I’ve also had many people ask what my opinion is about daycare, and I am sure they asked because they wanted to hear how much I hate daycare…but I don’t.

Here’s my bottom line, I am glad that there are daycare facilities.  Why?  Because there are so many people that have healed Alexis and touched our lives that made the choice to send their children to daycare.  Doctors and nurses, who literally gave Alexis life again – had kids in daycare.  The therapists and nurses who have helped give Alexis independence that we never thought she would have – had their kids in daycare.

In fact, after a month-and-a-half of being in the hospital, the first place therapists took Alexis to start “integrating” her back into the real world was the daycare they have at Madonna.

I think that daycare facilities have the potential to foster great learning environments.  In fact, there are probably times that being in a daycare may be a lot better for a child than staying at home.

But, believe it or not, the daycare vs. stay-at-home isn’t the “hot button” issue here.

When I start talking about the incident that happened to Alexis, the people who run the home daycares are the ones that get really offended.  I am sure if I was in their shoes, I would have the same reaction. 

When I have an opportunity (and feel like it) to delve deep into the story of Alexis’ injury,  I always start something like this, “Alexis was hurt while she was at a home daycare. The person who ran this daycare had almost twenty years of experience, and we knew twelve different families that had taken their children there over those years.  I felt like I had done the right things when it came to choosing a daycare.”

I’ve had home daycare providers come up to me after speeches and say things like, “That would never happen at my home.”  “I love children. The kids I take care of are like my own.”  I totally agree with them.  I would venture to say that most of the people who take care of kids would say the same thing.

I think that is what is really scary.  It’s scary for a parent, and it is scary for a daycare provider too.  Regardless of what people’s intentions are, kids still get hurt.

I don’t know what happened the day that Alexis was injured.  I don’t know how it happened. All I have to go off of is what doctors and child abuse experts have told me and that is what decades of medical research and evidence tells them.

During the trial I found out that there were a lot of stress factors happening in the home where Alexis was being cared for; things I wasn’t aware of.

I bring this up not to offend, or to say that this same thing is going to happen to someone else.  I bring this up to stop it from happening to another child.  I honestly feel like if people have Alexis’ story in the back of their mind, maybe it will prevent another child from getting hurt.

I think home daycare can be great.  They are more intimate. As a parent, it feels good to leave your children with a friend or family.  But I wish we could level the field a bit more on both sides.

Here’s my wish list:

Daycare providers

  1.  Be honest with the parents.  If there is a kid driving you up the wall, tell the parents.  Work together to set some goals and boundaries on both sides.   Just because you are having problems with a child doesn’t mean you don’t know how to take care of children.
  2. Be honest with yourself.  If a family crisis or something in your life is making it extremely difficult for you to take care of children, take a personal day…or two.  Sure, it’s an inconvenience to the families of the children you watch, but if it makes you a better childcare provider (and keeps kids safe), I am sure it is better for everyone.
  3. Get licensed.  It’s there for a reason.
  4. Be educated.  As part of being licensed you are required to take a “Safe with you” class that teaches you about safe sleep, shaken baby syndrome, and child abuse and neglect.   This allows you an opportunity to practice an environment that keeps kids safe, to educate parents, and to detect the signs of those issues.

Parents

  1. Be open and honest with your daycare provider.  If you have an issue, talk about it over the weekend or later in the evening.  Not when other parents are picking up their kids and the daycare providers’ day is coming to an end.
  2. Be respectful of the daycare providers’ sick days and personal days.  If they need it, they need it.  Don’t give them any grief.
  3. If the daycare provider comes to you with a problem about your child, listen to them.  Don’t assume that they are exaggerating.  Just listen and work to find a solution.
  4. Be respectful of the daycare providers’ day and business.  Pick your children up on time and pay them when it is due.

Parents and daycare providers, we can do this.  We have the power to stop something like what happened to Alexis from happening again.  Share this, post it, do whatever you have to do to open up the lines of communication between families and childcare providers.  I won’t reveal which step above it was, but if just that one would have been taken back in 2008, Alexis would have a completely different life than she has today.

Read the three part series of Alexis’ Story…

Tiffany Verzal

Tiffany Verzal was raised in rural Nebraska, and now lives in Lincoln, Nebraska with her husband Brandon and daughter Alexis (9) and Abby (2). In 2008, Alexis (then 14-months-old) was the victim of shaken baby syndrome at the hands of her daycare provider in Texas. Alexis suffered severe brain damage and has spent over 2000 hours in rehabilitation since her injury. Tiffany continues to raise awareness for traumatic brain injury, shaken baby syndrome and child abuse. Brandon and Tiffany serve as members on Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital’s Board of Trustees. Brandon is currently the Chairman of the Nebraska Child Abuse Prevention Fund Board.