Reporting on injuries to children while in care
As I walked around the rental car with my piece of paper comparing the sites of previous damage I suddenly had this brainwave!!!! We could create such forms for children - a little outline of a child, front and back of course, to document injuries! On arrival parents hand us the form with existing damage on their child clearly marked. At the end of the day we hand the child back with this form having marked any additional damage - the goal being not to add any further damage to the child! Parents check their child against the form and go home armed with this and of course a pile of accident forms completed in triplicate to account for every new mark. Brilliant I thought!!!!
Far fetched? Not if we look at what is already happening! Could this be where we are heading? Already educators are filling in accident forms, often in duplicate or even triplicate, for every little mark, every scratch, bump or bruise. Some parents examine their child to look for any damage not accounted for by the educator so that somebody can be held accountable and the 'lack of supervision' can be questioned.
Educators spend their days shouting ‘be careful’, ‘no climbing’, ‘ no running’, ‘no touching each other’, ‘keep hands to yourself’. Children are kept indoors because they can be 'controlled', it is seen as less risky than the outdoors. Should there be a new scratch, educators feel responsible, parents may be phoned at work, accident forms are completed and handed to the parent with an apology.
"When we hand a parent an accident form, what are we actually ‘saying’?
Learning injuries, common childhood injuries…..injuries that come with freedom and play, those grazed knees from running so very fast, we could sit and pick the scabs off? That magnificent bruise falling off the wall that you could boast about to your peers, even that broken arm you got when you fell off the monkey bars (you do need a form for this one!)? I spent my childhood envious of others with plaster casts, I wanted a broken arm too so my friends could draw on my white cast…..I wanted it so badly that I pretended to have a broken arm! I too wanted this 'badge of honour'.
Common childhood injuries are evidence of a high quality childhood, not of neglect, negligence or lack of supervision!
We spend far too much time focussing on physical injuries when the greatest majority of these are not serious or permanent. They are easily measured - how many accident forms filled in? How many band-aids dispensed? Lets look at the bigger picture of what actually constitutes real harm. What about the emotional harm we cause children by preventing them from having a childhood, the long term consequences of depriving children of the opportunity to make decisions, to take risks and face challenges….these are hard to see or measure but could have long term permanent consequences
Nobody want to see children hurt, we have duty of care but we need to look beyond the physical. I am not advocating for additional tick lists recording emotional damage but lets look at the common sense approach to protecting and supporting children to be children.
There is a place for accident forms but not a place for 'stupid' accident forms. Australian regulations require one for serious injuries where the child has reasonably needed medical treatment. This does not mean a cold compress or band aid was applied, this means the child needed to see a doctor, dentist, ambulance or hospital! Use professional judgement as to when an accident form should reasonably be completed.
I would complete an accident form for:
Do not apologise to families, you are following procedures, you did nothing wrong. Do not focus on the negative, share the positives with families. "you should have seen how well she problem solved climbing the tree! She does have a scratch on her face but she had such fun and was so proud of herself for achieving her goal"
In conclusion, nurture your parents, advocate for children, realise the benefits of having some accidents, do not apologise to parents and throw away those stupid accident forms!
PS I never did break a bone!