Does it ever seem like your licensing inspector picks on you?
Do they find little things that, to you, seem like no big deal?
Are you stressed out each time they arrive at your center?
If you answered “Yes” to any of these questions you are not alone. However, imagine if there were no licensing inspectors, or no licensing standards for that matter. What might you be tempted to change at your center? Would you increase your child-staff ratio? Would you let your employees take naps with the children? Would you let babies share bottles with each other? The answer is probably NO to those questions. Why? Because YOU are an amazing caregiver and you are focused on quality, but not everyone is like you.
Licensing inspectors are there to help us all maintain at least minimum levels of quality and safety for the children we are caring for and the families we are serving. I keep this in mind when I see my consultant pull up to my center, and I welcome licensing inspections. In fact, crazy as it may sound, I love my inspector. WHY? To me she is like my coach, she helps me see blind spots that I may not see in my own program. Blind spots could lead to safety concerns that could lead to a serious injury or even the death of a child. Having her input helps me stay accountable to quality standards, which makes my schools more attractive to new families.
One of the biggest reasons I love my inspector is that she levels the playing field. She makes sure that everybody has to play by the same rules. For instance, I know that I have the best program in my area. I know that if my competitors have to play by the same rules that I do, I can beat them every day of the week.
It is when your competitors break the rules, and the playing field is not level, that they can undercut you on price. Imagine if the child care center down the road was adding two extra kids over ratios in each classroom. What could they do to you on price? They, most likely, would undercut you badly. Your inspector is there to keep the playing field level. They are like a referee in a football game, they exist to make sure players are safe and that everyone plays by the rules.
I have had 5 inspectors in the 20 years I have been in business, and I have loved every one of them. Were they tough? YES! Were they fair? YES! As long as I am treated the same as the center down the road, I am a happy.
Being an inspector isn’t easy, though. They are the ones that have to deal with all the hard problems, and correct centers that are breaking the rules. Because of this they aren’t always met with the level of friendliness and welcoming spirit as they are met with when they visit my schools. But I realize this about their job, and I strive constantly to build and maintain a positive relationship with my licensing inspectors. Here are a couple things that I have done to help create an amazing relationship with my licensing workers.
- I have 5 centers and when licensing arrives, we are immediately called and either my wife or I will run right over to do the walk through with them. I want to eyeball every infraction and be aware of everything that needs to be fixed. I want no misunderstandings about what she is asking for.
- I take the items that need fixing and make sure that everything on that list is done within 24 hours (if possible). I want her to know I am responsive to safety concerns. I always take a picture of the completed work the next day and e-mail it to her, again to show responsiveness.
- I try to get to know them on a personal level. I make conversation and learn where they are from, how many kids they have, where they go on vacation, etc. I ask about these things every time I see them to show that I care about them.
- I thank my inspector for everything that she hits me on, I know she is trying to keep my kids safe.
- I send my worker a thank you card every so often. I let her know how much I appreciate the hard work that she does. I can promise you that no one else does this.
When interacting with your licensing inspector, show empathy. Imagine if you were in their shoes. They are responsible for the safety of the children at your center. If they let a safety concern slide, and something bad happens, they would have to live with it. Realize that they are doing the best job they can. Imagine having a job where every day you have to deal with people who more than likely hate you.
If 95% of the centers they deal with treat them negatively, and then you treat them with respect and really care for them, do you think they might treat you better? I say yes. I don’t expect my inspector to ever look the other way on a safety issue, (I would never want her to) but because I have a great working relationship with her, I feel we are given the benefit of the doubt on any gray area because she knows that safety is our #1 priority.
So the next time your inspector comes knocking, greet them with a smile, ask them about their family, get to know them on a personal level. It will be like a breath of fresh air for them when you treat them with respect and maybe, just maybe, inspections won’t seem quite as bad.
Certified Child Care Coach