I need a grizzle. Sorry, gentle reader, but this is just too much.
Today I attended a 3 hour Child Protection seminar to learn the new guidelines and rules for those entrusted with caring for children and youth in our church situation. I have no argument with tightening up the rules. Too much abuse seems to have crept in under the radar over the years.
However, my problem is this. I run a crèche at our church while the Sunday morning service is on, and the children I look after are aged between 1 and 5 years – babies and toddlers mostly. We do a tiny bit of Christian-based craft, read them stories, and play with toys inside and outside. You know the kind of thing – play dough, bubble blowing etc.
I try to run a tight ship, which means in the first instance that I always have a helper, and both of us are there together at all times. Most of these are mothers or grandmothers themselves, and everyone who helps in the crèche signs a document to swear that she is not a “prohibited person” under the Child Protection laws (ie does not have a conviction for child abuse).
I keep a list of names and contact details for every little one left for us to look after, even if they are only visitors to the church and I might never see them again.
I make sure the environment is safe for them to play in, including having child-proof gates, and I regularly wash all the toys with disinfectant.
But now I’m being told such things as how long I should spend cuddling a crying baby, and not to put a toddler on my lap while we look at a picture book together. And I have been given an A4 form with so many questions that it would take a parent 15 minutes to fill in - even asking for the name of their local GP. Now why would I want to know that, if their parents are just next door on church?
These are babies I’m minding, so that their parents can relax and worship in church, and so that these little ones might learn about God’s love for them while they're young.
Sometimes they aren’t entirely happy with Mum or Dad leaving them, and so they cry for a while. They need to be held, spoken to kindly, distracted, or rocked. Rather than hold them at arm’s length we like to soothe and settle them and give them a happy experience, so that they usually greet Mum or Dad with a big smile at the end of the hour, having had a great time in crèche.
It’s indeed a sorry state of affairs when the time I am permitted to spend holding a crying toddler, and the way I’m to do that (a side-by side hug, I’m told) has to become regulated.