Health Department consultants offers advice, traing to Haywood child care centers
The four-and five-year olds at St. John’s Learning and Child Development Center stood in line waiting for their turn with Buckle Bear. As their turn came, each child practiced opening and closing the safety belt the bear was wearing as Cheryl Lindsey, a child care health consultant with the Haywood County Health Department, offered encouragement.
As the health department’s only child care health consultant, Lindsey is responsible for providing guidance and technical assistance to 37 licensed child care centers in Haywood County. On this day, she and Buckle Bear provided information on child seat and passenger safety. On another day, Lindsey might consult and train child care center staff on everything from immunization status and infectious disease to playground safety or water safety.
“She is a very valuable resource for us,” said Debbie McConnell, director of St. John’s. “Whenever we have problems that come up, like a child with a rash or an illness we’re not familiar with, we give her a call.”
The Haywood County Health Department first established the child care health consultant position in 1994. The program is connected with Healthy Child Care North Carolina and the N.C. Child Care Health and Safety Resource Center. Her position is funded through Smart Start, a North Carolina public-private partnership designed to ensure that all children enter school healthy and prepared to succeed.
A registered nurse for more than 20 years and a former pediatric nurse, Lindsey has specific experience in child health issues that allows her to provide guidance and technical assistance to child care providers on a wide range of health and safety topics. In addition, Lindsey helps providers locate appropriate resources to assist child care providers in successfully including children with special health, medical and/or behavior needs.
“Cheryl just recently did a workshop with the staff on seizures, which was very helpful because we have several children who are developmentally disabled at this center,” McConnell said.
Some of the other services Lindsey provides to area child care centers are:
Helping assess health and safety needs and practices in the child care setting;
Establishing policies and procedures for health/safety emergencies;
Providing health education and wellness programs, as well as health screenings;
Offering solutions for managing injuries or infectious diseases within the child care setting;
Connecting caregivers and families with community health care resources and experts;
Providing up-to-date information on the latest guidelines, policies, and information regarding child health and safety;
Offering hands-on support through telephone advice or regular on-site visits; and
Conducting child care staff training
Some of Lindsey’s work is seasonal. In the winter, she spends a lot of time providing training and dealing with questions related to illnesses. Spring is one of the busiest times of year as Lindsey works to provide training on a variety of subjects to child care workers.
“I’m really busy in the spring because there are a lot of things they are required to be trained on every year,” Lindsey said. “Child care workers are not medical workers, but they see a lot of medical stuff and have to be trained for that. Being a child care worker is not playing with kids all day.”
Summer is the season for accidents, so it lends itself to a wide variety of safety topics, including water safety, sun safety, safe summer play, bike safety and others.
“Summer is trauma season,” Lindsey said. “That’s when we see the most injuries of all types. In fall, I usually provide information on Halloween safety, for example.”
While there is a lot of technical information that Lindsey provides to child care centers, the best part of her job is seeing the reactions she gets from the children.
“Seeing how they children grow and learn is great,” she said. “Like hand washing for example. When I go back the next time, they’ll want to show me that they still know how to wash their hands. It is amazing how quickly they learn.” For more information on child health care consultants, or tips for parents on choosing a child care center, contact the N.C. Child Care Health and Safety Resource Center at 1-800-367-2229 or www.healthychildcarenc.org. To contact Lindsey, or find out about other health department programs, call 452-6675 or check out the Haywood County website, www.haywoodnc.net.