Childcare for Conference Attendees
Many of our organizations organize Family Conferences where both affected an unaffected children are invited. Sometimes the affected individuals are teens and adults as well. The purpose of a Family Conference is usually contains at least the following two goals ... a time of learning for the adults/parents and a social/fellowship time where the families get to know each other and their affected family members.
Caring for "normal" children at a Family Conference creates its own set of logistical, care, safety, facility, and liability issues. When affected children are put into the mix this becomes even more complicated ... but ... as any of you who have met a family and their affected children know, it is well worth the effort for the family and those who meet them.
This wiki page is a collective of ideas and experiences. Please learn from it and add to it. Feel free to add comments to suggestions that others post, too!
As you read these suggestions please consider that often a balance of various types of individuals is best.
Considerations When Organizing Child Care
- The needs of the active non-affected children are different than those of the affected children.
- Prepare a set of written guidelines for parents ... feeding, diapering, care during breaks, location, etc.
- Prepare a written release for the parents covering the child care worker, the facility and your organization.
- Always have more than one worker in case one needs to handle an emergency. Never leave the kids alone.
- Make sure that you have crafts, projects, games, toys, and if space allows a movie.
- Do you need snacks?
- How about a quiet corner with a rollaway or two?
- Do the child care workers know where you are at all times?
- Use name badges for all workers and all children.
Sources of Child Caregivers
Student Program As an advocacy organization it is our goal to educate those who serve our members. One way that we do this is through our Student Program. During our biennial research & awareness conference, IMDSA invites Genetic Counseling students to sit with our family's children and entertain them throughout the weekend. For a list of genetic counseling programs and their locations, visit the National Society of Genetic Counselors.
This enables the families to enjoy the workshops and gain information from them without interuptions. It enables the children to have a good time and make new friends. But, more importantly, it enables the Genetic Counseling students a hands-on weekend with our kids so that they better understand what mosaic Down syndrome really is. This will further their professional life and also help them to diagnose those cases of mosaic Down syndrome that are hard to diagnose.
In exchange for their services, we offer the students to sit in on any workshops they choose at no cost to them. This also will further their understanding on mosaic Down syndrome.
About nine months before our conference we contact the facility in the area that houses Genetic Counseling students. We send out an invitation explaining the program and invite one student to be the head of the program. The "head" student will help with the scheduling and activities for the children. This person works closely with the conference committee and reports on a monthly basis.
The MLD Foundation also contacts local nursing schools in a similar fashion. Students studying speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, or education may be other resources to consider if there is not a genetic counseling program near by.
Local Churches & Similar Organizations The MLD Foundation has been successful in using local churches to be part of the team - especially for the non-affected children. We contact MLD affected families in the area and ask them about their local church's child care team. We ask them to ask about providing some assistance - when a local family asks it usually carries more impact.
We also contact local Young Life chapters as these usually consist of well-mannered, enthusiastic, empathetic, and responsible college age youth.
Volunteers Having volunteers is another way to provide specialized child care to conference goers. They are potentially a good way to grant highly specialized care and attention to the children, but the size of the conference and the exact needs of the child group may be limiting factors. Liability is also something that needs to be carefully worked out with volunteers, in case of emergency. Scheduling is also of vital importance, as volunteers might have very specific timeframes in mind, and the duration of the conference needs to be covered.
Family Voices Your local chapter of Family Voices will serve as a good resource.
Professional Student Organizations You may wish to try enlisting the aide of some of the profession student organizations from ASHA, American Speech and Language Association, AOTA, American Occupational Therapy Association and APTA, American Physical Therapy Association along with groups from special education and child life programs. This could be a good fit because many of these students might have already completed their clinical training, and are often certified in emergency response as well. When planning for this option, it's good to have details like the time and dates the care will be needed finalized.
Easter Seals is a disability advocacy and support organization that offers extensive children's services. Groups have had success arranging conference childcare by meeting with representatives of their office.
Specific Companies Previously Used
- Kiddie Corps - "We used KiddieCorp (has insurance) in 2011 and 2015. KiddieCorp required 2 hotel rooms for managers."
- Accent on Childcare - "They were called on short notice and did a wonderful job! Great activities, very organized.....can't say enough." - "We have used Kiddie Corp for the last 2 conferences and that has been fairly successful. They are an expensive company and we are wondering if any other groups have used other companies."
- The Pop In Nanny Agency - "They were about 1/2 the price of the other childcare companies that have been discussed (see above). They provide plenty of basic games, toys and activities for the kids."
- AmeriCorps. "Free and great service."
- Kids Nite Out - Orlando, FL - "The kids came running up to me telling me how much they wanted to go back to childcare. They had a blast." - "They gave us a base cost on the amount of kids rather than the more expensive hourly rate." " We used Kids Nite Out in 2013 (they carry no insurance so rates are lower)"
- Corporate Kids - "We use Corporate Kids and LOVE them! It has been the best financial investment we have made in regards to our conference." - "We hired Corporate Kids Events for our last National Family Conference and they were wonderful!" "n 2017 we used Corporate Kids (has insurance) which I think is by far the best company we used, and the most expensive. The rates depend on number of hours and number of children. Corporate Kids only required one hotel room for the one manager they sent. Corporate Kids also does crafts and you can pick a theme that matches your conference theme. "
- Single Volunteers of DC - Washington, DC - "Not a childcare agency, but rather a group of volunteers. They were awesome - truly, and worked out perfectly for our needs."