At some point all parents face this situation: their child has gotten sick and can’t go to school or daycare.
Published: January 1, 2019
By: Paige Townley
It’s a problem all working parents face at some point: their child has gotten sick and can’t go to school or daycare, meaning that the parent can’t go to work either. For some parents, it can be a serious situation – they have no more vacation or personal time left to take, they have something scheduled that day that they just can’t miss, or perhaps one more day away from work means serious repercussions. That’s exactly why Huggs & Kisses Sick Child Daycare was established.
Dr. Jacqueline Stewart, a local pediatrician, founded Huggs & Kisses in 1990, and it all started because of the problems she frequently heard parents mention. “I was seeing through my practice that parents were losing job time because their kids were sick,” she says. “Parents were saying that they were using their sick time or vacation time or even personal leave because their child was sick over and over. Some were even saying if they missed work again, they would lose their job. So I started looking for a resource for parents.”
While she was hoping to find a solution to alleviate those problems for parents, she didn’t find any options. Yet she did come across a center in Minnesota, the first of its kind in the nation, that took care of sick children so that parents wouldn’t have to miss work. “I liked what they were doing, so I knew I had to go there and see it,” Stewart says. “After seeing it in person, I knew exactly what I wanted to do.”
She came back to Birmingham and put her plan into motion: to set up a licensed daycare center that could look after sick children while parents were at work, and that’s what Huggs & Kisses has done since it opened more than 20 years ago. The daycare accepts children who are sick with illnesses regular daycares won’t take, and they have a variety of rooms to divide the children by types of illnesses. They even have a non-contagious room. “Sometimes parents are in a bind with childcare even though their child isn’t sick,” Stewart explains. “Perhaps a babysitter fell through or school closed unexpectedly. That poses the same kind of problem for parents.”
Further separating itself from other centers is the fact that Huggs & Kisses has registered nurses on staff to care for the children – caretakers who are trained to look for various symptoms that may indicate worsening of symptoms or perhaps indicate improvement. The RNs monitor the children during the day, including taking their temperatures and managing their meals – and call the parents if anything changes. Parents are also encouraged to call and check on their children as well.
“We do everything we can to make parents feel comfortable because it’s not comfortable at all to leave your sick child with anybody,” Stewart says. “But if parents know they are leaving them with a competent staff that is trained, it hopefully makes the parent feel much better.”
Understanding the impact that sick children have to working parents, Children’s of Alabama has also set up its own mildly ill care center for its employees, Near-n-Dear. Housed in the hospital, Near-n-Dear is for emergency back-up childcare and mildly ill children for kids of hospital workers when they can’t go to school or their regular daycare. “We’re set up to care for children who may be too sick for regular childcare centers but not so sick that a parent needs to stay home with them,” says Paige Larkin, center director.
Near-n-Dear has three care rooms, with the children separated based on illness. Generally, the center provides one-on-one care for each child along with a nurse supervisor who manages medication, treatments, vitals, and communication with parents for all children. “We typically have one child with one caregiver,” Larkin adds. “We don’t keep the kids in bed, we let them move around and play like a typical daycare center, and since parents are onsite at the hospital, we let parents come check in on them and visit as they have breaks to do so.”
Sick child daycare has been so helpful to families and employers across Birmingham that a number of companies have contracted with Huggs & Kisses for their employees, such as St. Vincent’s Health System, Protective Life Insurance Company, and Spire. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama actually has its own sick child daycare facility, the Caring Corner, which is operated by Huggs & Kisses.
“We have tried to make sure that we are set up to help parents in many situations with the help they need, whether it’s simply a sick child that needs a place to stay while they are at work, a healthy child when the babysitter bailed, or a special needs child that isn’t old enough for school and can’t go to a regular daycare, Stewart says. “It makes me happy to be there to help the parents and take care of these children.”
Paige Townley is a Birmingham-based freelance writer.
Is Your Child Too Sick to Go to School?
Sometimes it’s not very obvious if a child is too sick for school or daycare or just a little under the weather and still able to attend their regular routine. Children’s of Alabama shares its tips on what common symptoms and sicknesses mean and whether or not that should keep kids home.
- Sore throat, cough, mild congestion: While these symptoms could be leading to other illnesses, oftentimes on their own they might not mean the child is too sick for school. Children’s suggests checking with the school or daycare center to see if they have any guidelines for keeping a child home with these symptoms.
- Strep throat: After a child has a couple of doses of antibiotics, typically they should be well enough to get back to their usual routine, but they should stay home at least the first day after diagnosis.
- Cold or cough: If the child doesn’t have a fever, usually they can go on to school of daycare. However, if the sickness is making the child lethargic and therefore would require extra care or attention from the teacher/childcare worker, it would be best to keep them home.
- Pinkeye: Typically, there are guidelines in place at schools and daycares about pinkeye. Oftentimes a doctor’s note is required for pinkeye, so check with your school or daycare on their specific policy.
- Vomiting and diarrhea: A child that has a fever and is nauseated, vomiting, or experiencing diarrhea shouldn’t be sent to school or daycare.