Do you ever wonder what the point is to be answering some of the questions the assessors ask during the interview portion of the ERS observation? Some of them might seem silly too, but I promise there is a good, valid reason for these questions!
Let me tell you about a real situation that happened to me that made me realize the importance of these questions and why programs should use these questions to prompt discussions and maybe even re-evaluate their program’s policies and procedures.
During the school year, my daughter attends an after-school program where she is bused from her elementary school to the after-school program. I don’t have to worry about getting her from point A to point B while I am busy at work. I have confidence that she is where she is supposed to be and that she is safe. That is, until one evening when I received a phone call from my neighbor informing me that my daughter was at her house. Wait! What? My daughter is at the neighbor’s house and not at the after-school program? If you are a parent, you can imagine my reaction! My husband was traveling at the time and I was at work when I got the phone call. Now, you can imagine my panic, rather anger, as I realized my daughter’s bus driver dropped her off at the top of a very busy highway and she had to walk down a long driveway in the freezing rain where she knocked on the door and screamed in panic when she realized she was all alone. My heart jumped out of my chest, I drove faster than ever to get home to her and then I wrote a nice (well, sort of “nice”) letter to the bus company, the school district, and the after-school program. Was I being over dramatic? I don’t think so- especially in this crazy, scary world! Can you blame me? Are you wondering why I emailed the after-school program when it was the bus driver’s fault?
Well, if you recall, there are questions that the assessors ask in the School Age interview that help programs to avoid situations like mine. These questions include: Who is responsible for notifying the after-school program if a child is going to be late or absent? Do you have a communication system so that parents can leave messages if their child is going to be absent? How often do you monitor these messages? (Item #15 indicators 1.1, 3.1, 5.1, and 5.2 SACERS-U book) If you don’t have true answers to those questions or any of the ERS questions for that matter, or if you find yourself saying “no” or “I don’t do that” to any of the ERS questions, I would highly recommend you look into your program’s policies and procedures to see if there are any changes you could make to ensure that every child enrolled in your program is safe and where they are supposed to be. Using the ERS interview questions can really help to avoid potentially dangerous situations and also help open up communication between programs, staff, and also help to answer the question, “How do staff and parents work together to achieve regular attendance?” (Item # 15, indicator 7.1)
(Thankfully, the previous year I had “safety talks” with my daughter about possible situations like this and what she should do in the event that she was alone. I am so glad her “listening ears” were on and she remembered to go to the neighbor’s house to seek help!)