If your kids are in day care, are they in danger? What if your day care provider smokes pot while the kids are there, or takes pain killers, or has a glass of wine or a couple of beers? Not at my day care, you say? But, are you sure?

Last week a local news station caught day care workers smoking bongs while caring for children. The owners of the facility in Salem, Oregon readily admitted to smoking marijuana while children were nearby. They excused their behavior by stating that they had medical marijuana cards, and smoked during the day so they could "move around" and take care of the kids left at their center. That may not bother some of you who read this blog, but it makes me spitting mad!

I am not against a person in pain finding relief. However, I am against a person in pain finding relief while caring for a child. Smoking pot, taking opiates, or consuming alcohol may ease the pain, and it may help a person "move around", but it also slows the reaction time; distorts a person's sense of time; increases the heart rate and the blood pressure; and, can cause short term memory loss. Do you really want your child left with someone who can't respond to an emergency, or remember to change the baby's diaper? 

Why do I care where parents leave their kids? Because for seven years, I was a state-certified, family day care provider. I even wrote a book to help other day care providers establish a family day care home where kids would be safe, and their emotional, cognitive, social, and physical needs would be well cared for. I am a firm believer that quality care has a positive and lasting impact on a child's development.

According to the Childcare In America Fact Sheet published by Child Care-Aware of America, there are over 15 million children under the age of 6 that require child care. Those kids are split between the 117,000 day care centers, 209,000 family day care homes, 4,200 programs such as Head Start, and a multitude of other arrangements ranging from a grandmother to a neighbor, and from a teenager out of school for the summer to a sibling. So how does a parent know whether or not their children are safe? Simply put, ask questions and investigate. 

Ask if anyone responsible for the care of the child has a medical marijuana card and smokes while caring for the child. Do background checks on all providers and staff. Check the Better Business Bureau for complaints, and check with the State to see if they are registered or licensed. Make unannounced visits to check on your child. Ask to see the weekly menus to determine what your child is eating. Ask what their cleaning practices are--how often is the bathroom cleaned, what products are used, and if they stored away from the child's reach. Trust your nose--for instance, do you smell urine when you walk in the door unannounced? Finally, talk to your child. Ask what they did all day, who took care of them, what they ate, who they played with, and if they like it there. Parents are often the only advocate a child has--so step up to the plate and advocate! Make sure your kids are not in danger while you are at work.

Kids--all kids--are our future, and it is up to use to determine what that future will be.

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