Is your child care center secure?boy-toddeler-playground-hoops.jpg

Making sure that children are safe and protected from outside intrusion is a priority for both parents and child care providers. Centers are encouraged to look at security measures they may employ to keep children safe. Parents are encouraged to talk with centers about the security measures in place.

The licensing rules do not require that centers have a security system. Because each center is different and faces different challenges to keeping kids safe, the Department of Children and Families believes that each center needs to have the flexibility to choose the security measures that make the most sense for its program. The licensing rules do require that centers have emergency plans for evacuating children in the event of a fire and plans to deal with other emergencies. Also, licensing rules require that centers have a plan for making sure that a staff member always knows the name and whereabouts of each child in care and that each center release children only to a person authorized by the parent to receive the child.

Questions that centers should consider when looking at security are the same type of questions they must be prepared to answer for parents who are concerned about the safety of children in care. Those questions include:

  • How does the center make sure that a child is not released to someone that the parent has not authorized to pick up the child?
  • How does the center prevent unauthorized people from entering the center?
  • Does the center have an emergency plan that addresses emergencies such as fires, tornados, intruders, medical emergencies?
  • Where will the center take the children if they need to evacuate the center?
  • How will the center let parents know if there was an emergency and that they need to come and pick up children?

The following security measures describe some of the ways to keep unauthorized people from entering a child care center. Other measures may be necessary to address the security of the center as they relate to emergency plans and keeping children safe during an emergency.

Security systems that you might find in a child care center

Mechanical or electronic restricted access systems

These types of systems are designed to prevent unauthorized people from gaining access to a center. All the doors leading into the center are locked from the inside. You may be asked to enter a code or password onto a key pad or identify yourself before the door is opened. Sometimes, you may be "buzzed" into the building after you have been identified. The system may be as simple as a door bell or as complex as security system that is electronically operated.

Main entrance unlocked, and all other doors locked to prevent entrance

This type of system requires that everyone enter the building through the same entrance unless you have a key to another door. Perhaps the director's office will be near the main entrance so that he or she can see who is coming into the building. The center controls the access to areas inside the building by monitoring who is entering.

Bell or alert device attached to an unlocked door

In this type of system, the main entrance to the building is unlocked, but equipped with a bell or buzzer so that every time the door opens, the bell or buzzer goes off. Access to the building is not controlled but because it alerts the occupants of the building that someone has come or gone it can monitor what is occurring.

Designing the building to prevent direct entrance into classrooms

This alternative is not as much a system as a design feature. It may be used in conjunction with another option described above or it may be used on its own. In this type of setting, the main entrance will be separated from the doors to individual classrooms so that a person entering may need to go down a hallway or around a corner to get to a classroom entrance.

There are many excellent resources available on developing emergency plans. You can contact the Child Care Information Center at 1-800-362-7353 to obtain additional information and resources.