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Worrying Member Of Staff


Melba
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I have a member of staff who has done a few things that really worry me. When she was in her first year with us she had one of her key children round to her house (she didn't know her outside of work) which then led to a very awkward situation with the child and the mother. Obviously I told her that this was not something that should have happened and, to protect herself as well as the playgroup, it should not happen again.

I did think that it was just a mistake made by someone new to the job and that she had learnt her lesson from it. However, she has now told me that she has been socialising with another parent of a keychild this year. All this is always admitted months after the event.

So I have told her that if she does anything like this again then she can no longer be a key person to that child and that it is definitely not something that should be happening and I have discussed the situatiuon with my Chair of Committee. We plan to add something to contracts about it.

My question is what should be the official process? If I have made it clear to everyone that they should not do this then, if I hear of it happening, is it immediatley a disciplinary issue with an offical warning? Does it make any difference if they admit themselves or I hear about it some other way? What do I do if the member of staff just stops telling me what she is doing which seems possible at the moment. She is someone who likes to stir up trouble by gossiping behind everyone's backs but is very keen on her own rights.

My chair and myself both see this as a fairly major child protection issue but as this member of staff has taken her previous employers to an industrial tribunal (admitted after I gave her the job!) I know that everything has to be done just right or she may hit back.

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I am really interested in the points you raise Melba, and I wonder what kind of area your setting is in? Mine is in the middle of the village where everyone knows everyone else, and historically it had always been run and staffed by people who live in the village. So practitioners would know most of the parents socially, long before their children came to nursery. This would make the kind of policy you're proposing very difficult to apply.

 

I'm not an employment expert, but I'm not sure whether you can state who your staff can be friends with outside of nursery. You can enforce your confidentiality policy though, and of course you should take steps to ensure that your staff are aware that their responsibilities for maintaining policies such as safeguarding, confidentiality etc extend outside of the setting.

 

Your parents have responsibilities too, and they should be made aware that any contact with practitioners outside of nursery is entirely private between them and the practitioner, and that the setting cannot be held responsible for anything that happens during these meetings.

 

In writing your policy, perhaps you need to think about what you are concerned about, and what you would like to prevent happening as a result of these relationships between practitioners and parents. Once you have a list, you can start to see whether it is practicable, and also whether it is legally possible.

 

I'll be interested to hear what other people think!

 

I think you need proper legal/employment advice about how to proceed here

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What is the real worry with this...if we had made this restriction on the staff when I ran a setting we would have had major problems..

 

many of us who work in a village/ small town are often known or friends with parents or grandparents and what happens outside the setting we fully believed we had no control over... it was not our place to say you cannot be friends with xxx because we have their child at the setting..

 

a lot of our parents were already friends with staff before the child attended the setting...one of the reasons they sent child to us... or they had older siblings with staff children as friends .. there was no way we could stop them interacting outside the setting.. should I now mention that the staff also went 'clubbing' with parents some evenings...

 

We insisted on confidentiality and no staff was to discuss the children outside of the setting which parents were aware of and respected our policy on this.. they also understood that all meetings and agreements outside of the setting was their own responsibility and any decisions made had nothing to do with us.

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We are also a village and, of course, sometimes we do know the parents and children socially before they start with us.

The problem here is that i feel this member of staff is using her position as key person to make herself social friends with the parents when she was not to start with. We all state how well we know starting children and chose someone else to be a key person in order to stay professional.

I think it is likely that this woman is just trying to make herself seem indispensible to the parents so they flatter her and give her gifts at the end of the year which they do. However, the first time she did it she caused a great deal of upset to the child who she dumped uncerimoniously at the end of the year once she had had the present.

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I think I understand what you mean however like the others and although I dont live in a village because of our set up and where we are so many parents who have come to us over the years are known to us already and there is no way we could hav emade that workable.

Are you saying that you have a policy of not having staff be keyperson for friends or relatives? I cant see any problems with this, if that is what you want . But in addition to this you would also like to say that you cannot become 'friends' outside of work with any of your key children parents?

I think you may have a problem with this unless you can prove that confidentiality is/was breached or that they are bringing the company name into disrepute. It's not up to an employer to state who their staff can or cannot socialize with outside of working hours is it?

I'm not too clear what you meant by 'dumping' the child at the end of the year? Can you explain that a little more? I know what you mean about the presents but that could easily be remedied by having a policy of no personal gifts. I know a group that does this, they state something like if you want to give something then please donate to the group, you could always try that. Dont suppose it would make you very popular though!!

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unless you have a policy about socialising and networking there is little you can do, people are entitled to make friends. i have a networking policy which includes babysitting, facebook and socialising. it is discussed pre contract and actively implemented so i am in a strong position if you havent done this then there is little you can do other than reonforce the confidentiality policy and discuss professionalism regularly in staff meetings etc.

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Like Maz - we operate in a very small village.......one in which 'everyone knows everyone' - which can have it's downfalls - no having 'one too many' in the local for me! xD as if I would anyway! :o

 

I'm interested in your point about asking how well staff know children before they start and then choosing someone else to be their KP - I actually do the complete opposite......i.e. if I or one of my staff know a child well already then they would be their KP - that has always seemed to make perfect sense to me.......indeed one of my great-nephews attends my pre-school (he also lives in our village) and I am his KP - I can't imagine why I would feel it was preferable for him or his parents to have make another close relationship with anyone else :(

 

No offence intended - just another point of view.......

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The problem here is that i feel this member of staff is using her position as key person to make herself social friends with the parents when she was not to start with.

 

This could become a safeguarding issue. You say you think it is to get a good end of term present, it could equally describe the behaviour of a predatory paedophile.

 

Sorry, that sounds alarmist.

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We are also a village and, of course, sometimes we do know the parents and children socially before they start with us.

The problem here is that i feel this member of staff is using her position as key person to make herself social friends with the parents when she was not to start with. We all state how well we know starting children and chose someone else to be a key person in order to stay professional.

I think it is likely that this woman is just trying to make herself seem indispensible to the parents so they flatter her and give her gifts at the end of the year which they do. However, the first time she did it she caused a great deal of upset to the child who she dumped uncerimoniously at the end of the year once she had had the present.

 

I do know exactly where you are coming from Melba!

 

I think it probably seems unbelievable to most who use the forum that any professional would behave in this way but unfortunately it does happen. In my experience with one previous staff member she really would 'pick up and drop' a child at the click of her fingers if she felt there was something to be personally gained by the relationship. This even occured with others key children particuarly if they were children of the directors or other 'high profile' members of the community!

 

I don't know how you can prevent it in practical terms as although it soon becomes blatantly obvious amoung staff, parents are usually sucked right in! Your confidentiality agreement is key, as could be your ICT policy if it includes networking site restrictions. Other than that all staff are prohinited from smoking/drinking/going out in uniform and contractually any behaviour that brings the Preschool into disrepute is a disciplinary matter. Enforcing this is tricky though as it would come down to a matter of opinion!

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I think this could be open to personal interpretation, which makes it incredibly difficult to deal with. It reads to me as if you feel there is an unpleasant side to her personality which you feel you need to control by means of a policy stating what she can and can't do outside of work. I think this is problematical in itself, although I can understand why you are uneasy about the way she deals with the children in your care, from the description you've given.

 

lolo's suggestion that her behaviour in itself is a severe safeguarding concern might seem at first sight a bit alarmist, but the way you describe her behaviour is the classic way that people who seek to offend against children behave. They use their position within the work place to gain the trust of children and their parents, and make themselves indispensible to them before deciding when the time is right to make their move.

 

In employing this person in your setting, you are in effect recommending her as suitable and safe to work with children and if you feel that she is behaving in a way that is likely to compromise this then you need to take more direct action to stop this behaviour.

 

In your original post you raise the possibility that she will continue to behave in ways you consider inapappropriate but keep it secret and I think it is this aspect I find more disturbing, now that you have explained her behaviour in a bit more detail.

 

I wonder what advice Social Care would offer if you called them for advice about this practitioner's behaviour?

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If you truly have any suspiscions about safeguarding, and it would appear that you do, then you are duty bound to act. I would suggest you contavt your LEA child protection officer, and have an informal chat with them. They should be able to advise you further. My LEA safeguarding officer is happy to discuss any concerns, big or small.

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sorry but I can't see how socalising with a child and her mum is a safeguarding issue? If the parent is happy about seeing this member of staff outside school I don't think it's an issue, obviously different matter if she's forcing herself on the family!

 

I and most of the staff at our setting have friends who are parents, it's made clear that school issues must be kept confidential and to act professionally, if a situation occured where I felt the staff member hadn't been professional then it would be a disapinary issue after investigation, but can see no harm in being friends with parents.

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sorry but I can't see how socalising with a child and her mum is a safeguarding issue? If the parent is happy about seeing this member of staff outside school I don't think it's an issue, obviously different matter if she's forcing herself on the family!

 

The Safeguarding issue comes because she seems to be using her position in the preschool to get closer to the family than she would otherwise be. The Safeguarding issue comes when she has been told that it is inappopriate and continues. The Safeguarding issue comes when her manager is concerned she will continue but be secretive about it.

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some times its that gut feeling that says "theres something not quite right here" and so often in the past when abusers have been found out people speak up and say they had a feeling something was wrong but didnt know what to do

 

Id keep a diary about this member of staffs actions.... i keep one anyway these days about all issues i see, so that I can monitor if I need to follow things up of if I notice patterns emerging so that I can discuss issues during staff appraisals

 

Id look at your networking policy see if aspects can be adapted to ensure parents and staff keep a professional relationship you can also tell the member of staff it is not just a case of child protection but employee protection consider that some parents can befriend staff so that they can spin the sob stories to get out of paying fees or get extra sessions, pick up a child late etc... trusty babysitter or sometimes holiday child care.

 

its tricky saying "no parents as friends" Id just suggest the confidentiality issues but dont be afraid to listen to the child protection alarm bells. she's obviously done something thats not quite right to make you feel uncomfortable

 

if she is doing it to get better presents then you could create a "no individual staff pressie" policy for parents requesting if parents wish to buy presents then these will be shared by the team as a whole and that if parents want to thank individual member of staff to do so with an individual card which will last alot longer than any bubble bath, chocolates or flowers. I've never heard of any setting doing this its just an idea off the top of my head, but if other businesses such as pubs and restaurants share tips around the staff, why not do it in preschool? see how this impacts her behaviour

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