Do your employees know what to do if a parent/guardian appears in your program impaired by drugs or alcohol? Do you know what to do? It is critically important to train your employees on how to handle these situations.
One example would be: A parent arrives to pick up their child and they are obviously drunk. Do you let the child leave with them? Do you refuse to release the child? Well, first – if the parent’s rights to the child are not altered via a court order (i.e. no contact, limited contact, etc.) then you do not have the authority to hold the child. What you try really, really hard to do is talk the parent out of removing the child from your care. Offer to call a taxi or a friend, talk them into not putting the child in the car and driving away. Ideally, you have another employee call 911 if the parent is emphatic about leaving with the child. You delay them as long as you possibly can – in order to get the authorities to your program. They can make sure that the inebriated parent doesn’t get behind the wheel of their vehicle.
Having a code word to use in these types of situations may enable you to let another employee know to contact 911 while you are trying to detain the parent. Then you proceed to take an unreasonable amount of time getting the child’s things, looking for some type of paperwork that the parent “must” have, help change the child’s clothes – anything to give the authorities time to get there. As a last resort, you tell the parent that if they get into their car with the child you will be reporting them to the police immediately and they will be facing DUI and child endangerment charges. You can offer to help them call someone else to come get them. These are very difficult situations and potentially dangerous to yourself, your staff, other children in your care, their child, etc. What you don’t want to do is escalate the situation into violence. This might take every child care skill you have – redirection, reasoning, explaining, helping, etc.
Similar policies and procedures need to be in place and followed if you know a parent has just driven their child to your program and they are impaired. They are most likely going back out to their car to drive down the road. Just because the child is safe in your care – the parent needs to be reported to 911 in order for the police to apprehend them. You may lose a parent in your program, but you will have helped to get a drunk driver off the road.
You need to have a policy in place, and more importantly you need to train your staff, on how to appropriately deal with this type of child endangerment.