Millions of parents entrust the care of their most treasured possessions to other people, often near-strangers, almost every day. These infants and children — 11 million under age 5, according to Child Care Aware of America — spend an average of 35 hours a week in care outside of the home.
That reality can make some parents uneasy.
At the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, a small but mighty group has spent the past 24 years working to relieve those fears. This team, led by College of Nursing Professor Marilyn Krajicek, EdD, has become the go-to resource for keeping the nation’s little ones healthy and safe outside of the home.
Krajicek and colleagues shared the story behind the National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care and Early Education (NRC) at the July 8 Nursing Grand Rounds.
Book viewed as golden standard
NRC’s collection of standards “Caring for Our Children (CFOC),” now in its fourth edition, has gained acclaim over the years. Many experts now view the resource as the “gold standard” for health and safety practices and policies in early childhood settings, including the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The team still spends countless hours researching and updating these standards, covering everything from safe storage of food and breast milk to screen-time recommendations for tots to infectious disease protocol in childcare settings.
Validating standards involves a multi-tiered process based on scientific data and/or consensual opinion of top experts. Chief collaborators include the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Maternal Child and Health Bureau and the American Public Health Association.
Everyone from federal regulatory agencies to health care providers uses the collection, available free for full download on the NRC’s website. The team recommends the online version of CFOC for the most up-to-date information.
Group plays key role in national obesity battle
In 2010, during the White House campaign on reversing childhood obesity rates, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recruited Krajicek’s team to create another collection of standards on nutrition and physical activity for children.
An advisory committee came up with best practices for maintaining healthy weight in early childhood, and the NRC now assesses each state based on those standards in an annual “Achieving a State of Healthy Weight” report. Krajicek’s team also creates individual supplements (available online) for each state outlining its progress.
Krajicek’s current team members include, among others: Geraldine Steinke, PhD; Linda Satkowiak, ND; Nicole Patterson, MSACN; and Alison Pilsner, MPH. NRC initiatives have attracted more than $10 million in funding to the university since its formation in 1995.