Sunday, July 17, 2011

A back of the envelope modeling of daycare operations

We have what Dr. Sears refers to as a high-needs child. They define high-need as a contrast to fussy or colicky in that fussy babies quickly outgrow their fussiness and colicky babies tend to be incolable and in pain. Dr. Sears describes high-needs children as "supersensitive, intense, craving physical contact, have difficulty self-soothing . . . however, generally happy when their needs, as they see them, are met" Which is a good description of our son. Dr. Sears also describes this as something that continues for a while. While there are future benefits, such as good attachment to responsive parents, there are some problems. One of which is difficulty with alternate care-givers, such as day care. In our case, we have started T with half day at day care, and he pretty much cries the entire time, only taking a break to eat. So we have to consider the possibility of a mis-match of child and day care center.

We investigated an alternative of a family day care, meaning a day care that is run within a home. So it is smaller, as there are limits to the number of unrelated children that can be in a daycare (ratio of 1:4 staff to infants, 1:6 for older children).

The one thing that does seem to work is for the day care worker to spend individual time with T, such as when eating, but also one-on-one play time. Dr. Sears also consols that high-need babies are carried for some length of time per day. So, as we do not think by observation that the skills of care givers in either the current day care or the family day care are much different (although we think that the senior staff at the current day care have a broader breadth of experience in terms of how different the kids are), we decided to work out the numbers. Our day care center reports seem to indicate that they spend time with him either carrying him or taking him for a walk in a stroller. While there is no statement to that effect, that seems to mean that he gets regular individual time. So our question is if this can possibly be true.

Current large day care center summer months is a little slow, so let's say two care givers and 8 infants over a day (justified as they seem to have a number of part-timers on call that allow them to flex staff based on daily demands. If > 8, they bring in more staff. For < 8, the numbers only get better, especially since they have some staff dedicated to lunch/feeding). For an 8 hour day, that gives 16 staff hours split across 8 infants. Figure 2 hours per staff for feeding time (1/2 hour per child), that leaves 12 hours of care time. So do we believe that they can use these 12 hours to provide one-on-one time for each child (with the other staff worker essentially keeping an eye on all the others) If you count feeding time, you can state that the limit is 8 hours of one-on-one time to avoid having both staff engaged in one-on-one time simultaneously, so that allows for each child to get 1/2 hour feeding time and 1/2 hour of individual play time. Note that I did not allow for staggered child schedules, which actually would lead to increased potential individual time.

Then we thought about the family day care center we looked at. There is one worker for 6 children (some are older, so she is working under that ratio.) While older kids can somewhat entertain themselves, we realized that she cannot afford to provide individualized attention, because that would leave the other children with no supervision.

Conclusion: we think that we are doing the best we could given that we have a high-need baby and we are staying with the current daycaree center (there are other reasons then presented here)
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