Iowa State University is working to ensure that child care centers and homes, preschools, and after-school programs across the state are healthy and safe for all children.
An online course developed by Human Sciences Extension and Outreach has provided training to 23,640 Iowa child care providers and early childhood teachers since September 2016. Participants learn about health and safety, child development, cultural diversity, and caring for children who are homeless.
“The overall goal is to greatly strengthen the quality of Iowa child care and to reduce illness, injuries, and the number of deaths impacting young children enrolled in early childhood programs,” said Lesia Oesterreich, a state human sciences specialist and adjunct assistant professor in human development and family studies who is leading the effort.
The 12-hour self-paced course, called the Essentials Child Care Preservice Series, meets a new requirement by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that all child care workers across the nation receive basic training on information critical for health and safety.
Iowa’s course includes 12 modules that include creating a safe environment for children, preparing for an emergency, transporting children, preventing and controlling infectious diseases, handling and storing hazardous materials, giving medication, managing food allergies, creating a safe sleep environment for infants, preventing shaken baby syndrome, understanding child development, supporting cultural diversity, and understanding homelessness. Participants take a quiz to assess their knowledge and must score 80 percent to pass. They’re also asked to identify improvements they plan to make as a result of the training.
“Prior to this requirement, Iowa and many other states were not requiring training in many of these important key areas,” Oesterreich said. “People often falsely assume that strict regulations exist to protect our young children in child care programs. Tragically every year, I receive calls about children who have died in child care due to poor health and safety practices.”
The Essentials curriculum was developed in collaboration with Healthy Child Care Iowa, the Iowa Department of Public Health, the Iowa Department of Human Services, Early Childhood Iowa, and Iowa Child Care Resource and Referral. Participation has exceeded expectations. Developers anticipated the program would reach 5,000 child care providers in the first year. Instead, it reached four times as many people.
“Online training is popular with many audiences, but it is a life saver for early childhood professionals who work long hours,” Oesterreich said. “Their work day often starts at 7 a.m. and ends around 6 p.m. Essentials Online participants love that they have 24/7 access and the freedom to learn and study at their own pace. We also hope that the knowledge they gain can also be a lifesaver as we work statewide to reduce childhood injuries.”