How Daycares Avoid Parents Dropping off Sick Kids

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 the 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 child care providers do to avoid "drop and run"?

Establish a Sick Policy

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. 

If a nearby elementary school will not allow a child to attend class until after they are fever-free and have not thrown up in a designated amount of time (usually it is 24-48 hours), then the daycare should consider the same restrictions.

Dropping off sick children should not be allowed as it puts the rest of the daycare population at risk and child care centers must protect the health of all children.

Train Staff What to Do If They Suspect a Kid Is Sick 

The manager of the daycare 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 Greet Each Kid at the Door

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.

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.

Daycare operators know that parents wouldn't bring their child for care when ill unless they felt they didn't have another viable option. Some daycare 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 extraordinarily difficult task, but in the end, overall kid safety is something everyone can agree to.

When a Child Is Sick While at Care

Providers should have an agreement in place for pickup/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 "upcharge" and still, others simply absorb extra staff costs as part of the business of being in childcare.

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, there 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 another 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 are 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 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 

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 hand washing 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 healthy routine.

1 Source
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  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Handwashing: A Family Activity.

Additional Reading

By Robin McClure
 Robin McClure is a public school administrator and author of 6 parenting books.