Health and safety issues in out-of-home child care settings can range from simple to complex. As an early education and child care professional, you can handle certain health matters on your own, such as responding to a minor injury or developing materials and procedures based on your state’s child care regulations. However, when faced with more complex health concerns, such as determining a “safe sleep” policy, developing a care plan for children with chronic medical conditions, or responding to an infectious disease outbreak, you could benefit greatly from working with a health care professional.
Utilizing child care health consultants can help achieve the goal of providing safe, healthy, and developmentally appropriate environments for our nation's young children.
Health consultation can be formal or informal; volunteer or paid; short or long term. To decide what health consultation services that you need, think about the goals that you want to accomplish and what resources you have. Can you pay a health consultant? Are there any qualified health consultants who have a personal interest in your program? Do you want to improve all of your health policies or just address one particular issue?
Individual health providers will provide “consultation” about a particular child who is their patient which is very valuable, but they might not have the interest or expertise to address more global issues in your program. You will need to blend the information that you get about individual children (such as when to give a child an asthma treatment) with more global information (such as how to make your site asthma friendly). A child care health consultant can help make that connection.
What is a Child Care Health Consultant?
A child care health consultant (CCHC) is a health professional who has interest in and experience with children, has knowledge of resources and regulations and is comfortable linking health resources with facilities that provide primarily education and social services.*
Who Can Be a CCHC?
Child care health consultants include professionals such as nurses, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, physicians, health educators, dental hygienists, sanitarians, and medical social workers who have:
- Knowledge and experience in health and safety practices in child care
- Received CCHC training
It is important to follow state regulations which may determine who can be a child care health consultant and whether or not your program is required to have one.
What is the Difference Between a CCHC and a Child Care Health Advocate?
A child care health advocate (CCHA) can help implement the advice of a CCHC. For centers, the CCHA can be licensed/certified/credentialed as a director, lead teacher, teacher, or associate teacher, or a health professional, health educator, or social worker who works at the facility on a regular basis (at least weekly). The CCHA is responsible for policies and day-to-day issues related to health, development, and safety of individual children, children as a group, staff, and parents. The CCHA doesn't need to perform all the health and safety tasks in the facility, but should serve as the person who raises health and safety concerns.
Ask your CCHC to organize a workshop to teach interested staff how to become a CCHA. The CCHC can use the California Training Institute curriculum along with the Instructor's Guide. In addition, the Northampton Community College in Pennsylvania offers a 3 credit (45 hour) Child Care Health Advocate online course to directors, administrators and lead teachers.
What Knowledge Should a CCHC Have?
Professionals interested in consulting with child care programs need basic training and ongoing professional development. The knowledge base of CCHCs (personally or by involving other health professionals) should include:
- National health and safety standards for out-of-home care
- How child care facilities conduct their day-to-day operations
- Child care licensing requirements
- Disease reporting requirement
- Immunizations for children
- Immunizations for child care providers
- Injury prevention for children
- Staff health, including occupational health risks for child care providers
- Oral health for children
- Nutrition for children
- Inclusion of children with special health needs in child care
- Recognition and reporting requirements for child abuse and neglect
- Community health and mental health resources.*
In addition to these basic topics, CCHCs should also be aware of emerging trends and new recommendations (eg, reducing the risk of SIDS in child care).
What Are the Benefits of Having a CCHC in a Child Care Program?
A CCHC can help improve the health and safety of children in your care by:
- Teaching child care providers about health and safety issues
- Teaching parents/guardians about health and safety issues
- Assessing the needs of child care providers and parents/guardians for health and safety training
- Meeting on-site with child care providers about health and safety
- Providing telephone advice to child care providers about health and safety
- Providing referrals to community services
- Developing or updating policies and procedures for child care facilities
- Reviewing health records of children and child care providers
- Helping to manage the care of children with special health care needs
- Consulting with a child's health professional about medication
- Identifying children with developmental delays
- Interpreting standards or regulations and providing technical advice, separate and apart from the enforcement role of a regulation inspector*
How Do I Find a CCHC?
Because states use a variety of methods to support and deploy CCHCs, the pathway for locating a CCHC varies from state to state. Some CCHCs are housed in local Departments of Public Health. Other CCHCs are private consultants who market their services for a fee. Pediatricians may also provide child care health consulting services. To find a CCHC in your state, visit our State Contacts page and click on your state for more information. Otherwise, you can try searching for a CCHC by contacting your local Child Care Resource and Referral Agency (CCR&R), your local Department of Public Health, or the AAP Chapter Child Care Contact.
More Info: How to Choose and Use a Child Care Health Consultant
If you are thinking about utilizing a pediatrician as a child care health consultant, consider these tips and resources to help prepare.
*Caring for Our Children: National Health and Safety Performance Standards, Third Edition , 2011.