In a perfect world, nothing would ever happen to the children you care for. Parents would drop them off in the morning and pick them up in the afternoon while the kids had a peaceful, educational day. Unfortunately, the world never runs that smoothly, especially with kids involved, no matter their age. From simple boo-boos to violent behavior, every child care organization and school has reported an incident to parents.
When should you send a message, and what should it include? What process should you use?
The rest of this post delves into those questions and offers a tool to help you effectively and efficiently create incident reports and provide clear, timely parent communication.
When to Send a Message
There is a multitude of reasons to send a message, either to one parent or everyone who leaves a child with your facility. Those reasons apply to every age, from infants at daycare to teenagers in afterschool programs.
Send a message to the parents of an individual student when:
- There is an injury of any sort, even if it’s a scratch.
- The child shows a pattern of unacceptable behavior that you have been unable to stem, such as biting.
- The child becomes ill.
- The child seems to be lagging behind their peers in some way.
Each time, the issue is with a single child whose parents need to know what is happening. Parents of very young children, in particular, may feel more at ease if they know you will tell them the origin of every scratch. Children with behavioral issues that endanger other children or require too many resources are also entitled to a level of privacy about the problem.
(Of course, the parents of any child harmed must be notified, including what you are doing about the issue.)
Send a message to all parents in the following circumstances:
- An issue impacting the children, parents, or your organization is on social media, and the facts are not clear.
- Something targeting a broad scope of students, such as a particular group.
- Parents need to know about a new and growing pattern.
- The incident involved inappropriate behavior that cannot be tolerated.
If a student becomes violent, commits suicide, or uses inappropriate language even after correction, you need to file an incident report and notify all parents of the situation. Sadly, the age at which some of these actions occur seems to be decreasing.
Ask yourself if the information you share is relevant to a parent and their child. Does it affect one grade level or the entire school?
Incident Reporting Process
Some states have an obligatory incident reporting processes and tools that childcare facilities and schools must use. Most have gone to an online reporting process.
Your incident reporting process should be part of your overall school policy and included in parents' informational materials. Make it available via the parent portal or your website.
The Anatomy of Your Message
Keep the following items under consideration when preparing your message.
- Overall tone — be respectful and use professional language. The tone should reflect the severity of the circumstances without causing panic. Be calm, understanding, and acknowledge the seriousness of the issue.
- Buffer - ease into the message with a few positive or neutral sentences, such as an expression of community values or context for the incident.
- Explanation — provide a clear but succinct description of the incident. Make it brief and be honest. Do not minimize or mislead parents about the facts. Maintain privacy when required. If your organization owes an apology, do not delay and be sincere.
- School’s response — explain what you have done about the incident so far, an action plan for the future, and whether discipline is expected. Provide district policy if needed to explain the response.
- Close — At the end, return to the same type of content as the buffer section, reiterating reassurance and positivity. Tell parents you take the matter seriously and will do everything possible to resolve the issue and keep it from happening again. Let parents know how to contact you with any concerns or questions.
- Include resources - this portion is optional. It may be helpful to provide contacts for counseling or to provide a more in-depth explanation of the issue that is age-appropriate. The incident may introduce topics of conversation that parents are not prepared to address, particularly with serious events.
Be serious, sincere, honest, and concise. Parents need to know you understand and that something is being done to help their children.
EZChildTrack’s Incident Reporting and Parent Communication Feature
EZChildTrack simplifies and streamlines incident reporting and parent communication. This feature is included and integrated into our childcare management solution.
Parent communications are available through a parent portal, email, text, and phone. You maintain all details within the system. The information is kept with the student and organizational records so you can comply with state regulations.
The incident reporting feature helps you aggregate data to track trends to identify issues that require further investigation and correction. Using software for reporting reduces paperwork and offers pre-populated forms. When a teacher or staff member enters a report, you can set the solution to notify you automatically, so you can proceed with parent communication if needed.
Taking care of children is rewarding but sometimes presents serious challenges. From the smallest bump to school-wide emergencies, you need a way to gather data in one place, provide appropriate messaging to the right parents, and keep records for audit.
EZChildTrack makes it easy to create and keep records and reports for every incident.