<<CLICK HERE for a related story>> Like many of you Longmont parents (and probably other communities), we take advantage of “Kids’ Nite Out” at our local recreation center. We felt comfortable leaving our kids there for a few hours with their counselors, and how it would be tough for our kids to just wander out, or worse, be taken out by the wrong person. That has now all changed. We received this letter…
“Dear Parents, The Colorado Department of Human Services has notified us that we must change two of our policies and procedures to be compliant with state law.
Effective immediately, we must give children the freedom to leave the program at any time. This means we can no longer require parents or responsible adults to sign-out their children, nor can we force children to stay in the facility until a parent or guardian comes inside to find them.
We need to make it clear to you that legally we can no longer be responsible for the care of your children while they attend our program. They are free to leave whenever they wish, and we are not allowed to prevent them from leaving.”
For those that don’t know, this is a program for 8-13 year olds, and its $10 per child. The policy used to be that you’d sign your kids in, and when you picked them up you’d sign them out – a very safe and controlled situation.
UPDATE: I had a couple of phone calls with the Managing Partner of Kids’ Nite Out, Eileen White, about this issue. This may have been a case of unintended consequences by a parent in Lafayette. The long and short of it was that while there are all kinds of exemptions for facilities like this, there wasn’t one specific enough to allow them to use some of their procedures without a childcare license. Mainly, they can’t stop a child from leaving the facility. Eileen and I agreed that this was a step in the wrong direction for child safety, but the options were either changing the policy or becoming licensed, which would basically end the program.
The only way an exemption could be made is if the actual State law was amended. Eileen told me they had an attorney that tried to get one of our many state legislators to introduce this amendment (each legislator gets 6 per year), none would take it. The cutoff was in January, so there’s no hope for the remainder of their, ahem, busy legislating year. Who gets these kinds of exemptions? Doing a LexisNexis on the law, the powerful ski industry can do pretty much full blown daycare while you ski for hours, yet they don’t need a license. Same old story – if you have the right lawyers/lobbyists/assemblymen, you can do just about anything. If you want a fun and active program with child safety as one of your main policies, go to the back of the line.
On the bright side, and why we’ll continue to use this service, is the continued importance placed on safety. While they can’t physically stop a child from leaving or wandering off, they will let the child know that if they leave their parents will be immediately notified. Also, a uniformed police officer will be present for the duration of the program. The officer and the counselors are trained and will be on the lookout for intoxicated individuals, or children’s stress levels if they might be taken against their will.
If you have any further questions or concerns on this issue, Eileen said she’d be happy to take your calls at (303)770-6191.