Incident reports are terrifying for all parties involved. Children do not like having any negative disruptions to their day. Caregivers feel guilt and play the incident over in their heads countless times. Parents’ hearts stop the moment the conversation begins.
Incident reports must be completed at daycare to create an environment that is transparent, responsive, and constantly improving. They allow the facility to accurately track, respond to, and follow up on any and every incident.
This is not an issue that can be summarized in a few sentences, though. Read on to discover what incidents require reporting, exactly how incident reports benefit everyone, and the proper way to complete a report.
When are Incident Reports Necessary?
It is important to look at an incident report as documentation of the incident and not simply paperwork that shows faults. Often incident reports are overlooked or disregarded to dissuade guilt or because a party does not feel that it is necessary to file an incident report.
In general, it is better to file more reports than necessary than it is to file fewer. Refusing to file a report for an incident opens up opportunities for details to become muddled, potentially harming the child should the issue evolve. Beyond that, failure to file incident reports at appropriate times can affect the reputation of a facility, potentially resulting in loss of licensure.
In general, you should complete a report any time an accident occurs that requires the child to stop an activity or be given attention. This also includes any time another party needs to intervene in an interaction, whether that be between two children, a child, and a caregiver, or even two caregivers.
Injury or Illness: This is perhaps the most obvious example of an incident requiring reporting. Anytime a child is injured or sick a report should be filed, whether it details a bump on the head or a broken bone.
Neglect: If a child is left without proper supervision a report should be filed. This may also include a room being left understaffed.
Aggressive or Unusual Behavior: Incident reports for behavior can be important for early intervention, predicting future behavior, or discovering other root problems that can affect a child’s well-being.
Care Errors: If instructions for a child’s care are not followed, whether it be agreed upon feeding times or medication errors, a report should be filed.
Suspicion of Abuse: Every state has its requirements for mandated reporting, so be sure to stay up to date with your state and municipality requirements.
The Incident Report Process
The first step in filing an incident report is to not file an incident report.
Let me explain.
The first thing on your mind should be resolving the issues and ensuring the safety and well-being of any children involved. Your initial instinct, when faced with an issue, may be to worry about the repercussions, but this should be the last thing on your mind. Be prepared to take a moment to shift your mindset so you can deal with the issue at hand.
Once the child is safely out of the situation, an incident report should be completed immediately by a teacher or staff member that was present when the incident occurred. Ideally, you should have any witnesses to the event file their incident report or add it onto the initial report so it is completely rounded and non-biased.
It is a good idea to have a basic outline ready to fill out should any unfortunate incident occur. You can even have specialized forms for specific instances, but the general information you need is the same across the board.
The incident report should include:
Who: Make sure the names of any involved or witnessing individuals are documented, as well as credentials and contact information.
What: Details of what happened are necessary to determine what follow-up action should take place. Make sure to notate anything that is speculation and not fact.
When: Time and date are necessary for keeping records and proper documentation. You should document when the incident occurred, when the response occurred, when the report was filed, and when other parties were notified.
Where: The report needs to establish where the incident occurred, regardless of whether it was on-site or off, and where exactly it occurred within that location.
Why: If there is a discernable reason that the incident occurred it should be notated. Transparency is important for both reputation and moving forward, and if you can honestly recognize the “why” of an incident you are building trust.
Once the incident report has been filled out it should be shared with the appropriate parties. This always includes parents/caregivers. Alternatively, your state, municipality, and insurance may require all reports to be filed with them as well. Anyone involved in the incident should have a copy of it.
When you share the report be prepared to discuss what happened. The report will give you a basis for discussion, which can be useful in more emotional situations. Expect questions, and if there is anything you include in the discussion that was not on the report make sure to add it. It is also a good idea to have them date and sign the report so there is a record of the incident being discussed.
Each state has different laws regarding how long an incident report needs to be kept, but a good rule is to keep all reports for two years. Something that happens to a child when they are four can lead to complications when they are six, and an incident report can help the child move forward. You should keep records regardless of whether the child still attends your facility or not.
The Benefit of Incident Reports
Incident reports are scary things, but they benefit everyone involved. This does not mean they are desired, but rather that a change in perspective can make it less stressful for someone to go through the process of completing an incident report.
Benefits for Children
The child or children involved in an incident can directly benefit from the reports. Incidents affect their behavior and well-being. When there is an accurately detailed report that can be referenced it increases the chances that a child receives appropriate and timely treatment.
Incident reports can also help prevent the same issues from occurring more than once or to multiple children. They help establish the safe environment that every child deserves to have to socialize, learn, and play.
Benefits for Parents/Guardians
Guardians directly benefit from being involved in what goes on in their child’s life, regardless of whether they are present for issues or not. An incident report gives them all the information they need to make future decisions for the child. They can also share this information with other necessary parties like doctors, therapists, or family.
Parents deserve transparency when they are entrusting the care of their child to someone else, and incident reports are the very basis of having a trusting relationship. If a guardian is not informed of what happens when their child is in someone else’s care it can result in unnecessary guilt and anxiety.
Benefits for Caregivers
These reports provide insights that can help a daycare improve its facility and procedures. The details in these incident reports give the facility a pool of data to use when determining what changes need to be made and what areas have room for improvement.
Incident reports can highlight issues that are frequently occurring better than raw memory can. When you see something documented repeatedly it is a sign that the issue has not been resolved. Responding to these recurring issues can help you prevent future issues.
The reports are also necessary if a lawsuit is filed against the facility. Detailed documentation is necessary to counter-arguments against a daycare or individual, but only if the appropriate response to a situation is enacted.
Learn more about the risks HERE.
Can a parent or guardian file their incident report?
If a parent or guardian learns that an incident occurred while their child was in your care they can file their report. You should make sure you have a copy of the report, and you should do your investigation to ensure that you respond to the incident appropriately.
How can I keep track of incident reports?
Daycare software you already use may have incident reporting built into their system. This makes it easy to keep everything in one place for every child. You can also keep hard copies of incident reports in a filing cabinet. Incidents related to employees can be tracked in a simple spreadsheet.
How many incident reports are too many?
It depends on the age group of the children and the nature of the incidents. Minor bumps, scrapes, and bruises are to be expected, even with a solitary child, so you should expect quite a number of those. Major incidents like improper care and neglect can be major red flags. This is why the report needs to be as detailed as possible.
Please note: This blog post is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Please consult a legal expert to address your specific needs.
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