Difficult Decisions

I have been in this field for 20 years.  In those 20 years I have only twice, personally, had to terminate child care services for a family and only ONCE knew without a doubt it was the right thing to do.

Notice I said ONCE even though I’ve done it TWICE?  Yeah, one of them my supervisor told me to do.  I still think we could have helped that child; however one of my employees went over my head and didn’t want to put in the effort.

In the end, since I didn’t have the staff who had the desire and/or ability to work with that one child I know it was ultimately the right decision; I just wish I could have motivated that employee better.

The other time, the child was beyond our abilities.  About a year after we had to terminate services for him, he was diagnosed with some serious brain development issues that dealt with aggressiveness towards others.  He was physically harming the other children and before we had gone through all the steps we needed to take to help mom get the help she needed, he literally cracked another child’s head open and we had to immediately terminate services.  My only regret is that we weren’t able to complete the support for mom to get him on the right path…okay, that and the other children had been injured (that is really a huge regret).

Here’s the thing I want to know: when do you make that decision?

The decision to have a child leave any program is a difficult one…or it should be.  Often times I run into teachers who have too easy of a time deciding that children shouldn’t be in a program.

However, we always look at the environment and the adults in the environment before determining that the problem is actually with the child.  When we determine that it truly IS with the child; at what point do we say, “It’s more than we can handle.”?

Is it when they are physically injuring other children?  Physically injuring the adults? 

Or does it always have to be physical?  What if it’s not about physical injury, but it takes 50% of the teacher’s attention every day?  Does the answer change if the behaviors take 90% of the attention?  What about 75%?

What if the behaviors are not at all physically injuring others AND they aren’t taking attention from the teacher, but they are distracting to others?  The teacher can do circle, but the child is on the other side of the room yelling, shouting, and being disruptive?  What if it’s none of those, but the child is obviously not thriving in that classroom/environment?

At what point do we say, “We just don’t have the ability to serve this child.”?

I do have my opinions on these (are you surprised?), but I want to get your opinion as well.  It’s been a hot topic around these parts for a while.


Barbra Stephens said...

Hi Jenni, I can hear the pain in your voice. I can only speak from my experience. I have worked with many various populations of children and families. Many of whom were at risk and the families were involved in the system or chose a 'pass the buck' mentality. In one case I came in as a 'clean up woman' when I entered in as director. Teachers and kids that were bullied and abused by kids and parents HAD to go. Kids were out of control because the parents were in these cases-I had to stand up for my new staff.
As a Director I have a responsibility to my teachers-they are an extension of me and are my team. I must connect and have a report with the parents. The teachers care for and take care of the children's needs first-without the parents support it is difficult for them to do their job. It is a gear shift being a director-I can't think like a teacher-I am only as strong as my team and I must know what and who my team can handle.
As a director I am a teacher of teachers. I must get or give them the proper training, guidance. support and encouragement. I am only as strong as my weakest link.
I must listen to what my teachers are telling me. To discredit or disregard them is my own pride(I have been called on it before). A strong team makes for a strong school, and we all must stand by one another to educate a child. If we are not doing that in the first place, how will any child stand a chance?

Jenni said...

Yes, it's always a difficult decision. Actually, in this case, no one wants to see the child go. Everyone is willing and able to put in the effort. The problem comes that he is taking more than 50% of the effort of ALL the staff and that's just not fair to the other children. The center has almost become entirely about this child rather than about children in general.

I don't have a final say, but I did let my opinion be known today in a very kind a gentle way. I'm just hoping we can find a place for him that has the ability to give him the 50% attention he needs.

Barbra Stephens said...

Since this child's needs cannot be met at your program proper placement is the next thing.
Documentation is really helpful in this time if it hasn't been done. Please have the child's teacher(s) begin or backtrack a bit in documenting the child's moodswings, what sets them off, time of day, is it after meal times, just before or during naps? How long do they last? How are they handled? Are their a lot of transitions in the day for this child? How long has this child been in the program? How many teachers has the child had?

Be as detailed as possible. Believe me. I have worked on the receiving end of children kicked out of preschools with nothing to go on and absolutely no documentation from their prior school. Everyone had to start from scratch and work with the frustrated child and family over again. It is a terrible waste of time.
It will be okay. Their are programs out there that will can assist families and children. Resource and Referral agencies are a good start.

Jenni said...

Oh, documentation is never a problem around here. We document every time a child looks cross eyed practically. Okay, it's not that bad, but we do have tons of documentation. It's one of the areas I really focus on training for challenging behaviors because that's typically when we see patterns of behaviors.

This child has practically been catered to for almost two years. We've/they've worked hard at keeping as much consistent as possible for him.

We've recieved children who have been kicked out of other programs as well. The most successful ones are the ones whose parents are upfront and honest with us. If we know from day one that the child has had challenges in the last place (or last 4 places) we can start day one with different strategies for success.

This child has been with us since he was a toddler. I know there is another program out there, unfortunately the one program I know of is not in the area of mom's work or home and will be a challenge for her to get et him to it. Hopefully we can find another program like it closer by.

Thank you for your thoughts and words in this struggle.