New Study: Kids Unnecessarily Sent Home Sick from Child Care

Last Updated Apr 20, 2010 2:57 PM EDT

I'm a huge advocate of day care. But even I can't deny that it's a hassle when your child gets sick and you have to miss work. It turns out that working parents are put in this stressful situation more often than they should be.

According to a new survey of more than 300 child care centers in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, more than 50% of directors would send children home unnecessarily with mild illnesses. While it can often be tough for a day care worker to determine which children are too sick to attend, there are guidelines published by the American Academy of Pediatrics and American Public Health Association that centers can follow. In this study, however, many of the directors seemed unfamiliar with the guidance.

I'm sure child care centers across the country feel it's better to err on the side of caution. After all, no one wants to spread illness. But there are only a limited number of times that a parent can call her boss and apologize for missing yet another day of work because of a sick child. Even if your manager doesn't give you a hard time, chances are too many missed hours will reflect upon you poorly and could keep you from getting a positive review or even promoted.

So what's a parent to do? Some of my friends have avoided day care centers and employ nannies so they never have to deal with the "sick" issue. One-on-one care for your child, however, is costly.

Other parents I know are lucky and live near family members who can step in and help out when their children get sick. My own mother and mother-in-law have often bailed me out of tricky situations when my older daughter had caught a bad cold or came down with a stomach virus.

If you don't live near family, you could try my newest approach. Over the past few months I've taken to questioning my daughter's symptoms before agreeing to pick her up from school. I started doing this after my day care center called announcing that my little girl had a temperature of 99 degrees. I don't mean to sound cold, but that hardly sounded like a fever to me. I decided not to pick her up.

In September things will likely get a bit trickier for me. That's when I plan to start my second daughter in day care and will probably receive twice as many "sick" calls as my little one gets used to all the new germs. At first, I'm sure I'll err on the side of caution too and keep my baby out of school more days than I would like. But as time passes, I'll have to remind myself of the Milwaukee study and remember that she's probably just fine, at least half of the time.

Do you ever feel that your child's day care center sends kids home too often? How do you cope?

Stethoscope image by a.drian, courtesy of CC 2.0.
  • Stacey Bradford

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