I will write about my current work (and previous one too, maybe), safety
issues at child daycare in Japan, and surrounding issues.
First of all, here is the mission statement of the center I established in 2013. The statement used be on the NPO's website, but it has been moved here because the other website is all in Japanese.
Center for Child Daycare/Nursery Safety Research and Training
(Registered Non-Profit Organization / Tokyo)
The Center for Child Daycare/Nursery Safety Research and Training has
been established to reduce the frequency of preventable serious injuries
and deaths of children at child daycare facilities*. Working with child
daycare facilities for five years after moving back to Japan, the Center's
founder, Itsumi Kakefuda, Ph.D., realized that there were cases of death
and very serious injuries at daycare, including brain damage caused by
choking, suffocation and drowning, which could have been prevented if appropriate
and safety measures had been implemented.
Needless to say, the problem is not just found in child daycare. In Japan, on average, more than one child younger than nine dies every day due to unintentional injury: in total, approximately 400 every year. Of the deaths, approximately 20 are at daycare facilities**. Does that number sound very small? No. We are talking about lives of children, not statistics. Especially from the perspective of organizational risk management, avoiding preventable serious injury and death is crucial for daycare.
One might think that children in Japan are well taken care of because
the youthful population of the country has been shrinking. The population
assumption is true***. However, the situation regarding child daycare is
not. The shortage of facilities and daycare providers has become very serious
in recent years in urban and suburban areas throughout Japan. The reasons
are complex: More women continue to work after childbirth than before;
More people want to live in or close to urban areas (fewer and fewer jobs
are available in rural areas); Compensation for daycare workers is not
commensurate with their responsibilities and working conditions, and; Psychological
pressures including harsh and often unfounded complaints from parents against
daycare providers are not unusual. These are just a few reasons.
With this situation, daycare providers work very hard with a tight shift schedule and limited personnel. These conditions leave children at many daycare facilities susceptible to serious injury or even death, due mainly to an overcrowded environment and lack of effective supervision.
In the past few years, some daycare facilities considered taking proactive steps. Kakefuda began working closely with them. As an injury prevention psychologist and a survivor of two traffic-related injuries (one as a bicyclist in 2004 and the other as a pedestrian in 2012), Kakefuda took on the mission of averting preventable death and serious injury among children. She would also like to help daycare providers who work hard to take care of children and to keep them safe, as their work is so important in Japan's current society. With this in mind, Kakefuda has established this nonprofit organization.
The approach of the Center for Child Daycare/Nursery Safety Research and Training is multi-dimensional, with three core activities:
1) Environmental approach: Ensure that the daycare environment is safe to control preventable serious injury.
2) Human approach: Reduce the daycare providers' psychological biases that underestimate risks and dangers; Increase their ability to predict possible serious consequences after seeing minor injuries and near-miss cases, and; Replace unsafe behaviors with safer ones or acquire new, safer behaviors.
3) Risk communication approach: Communicate effectively with parents to avoid unnecessary complaints related to daycare safety.
This is how the Center started and where it is heading.
April, 1, 2013
(You may wonder what the lengthy texts on the Center's website are. These are news items from Japan and around the world on pediatric injury, child health, and child daycare. This type of information is critically important for predicting potential hazards, possible serious consequences, and possible safety measures. Any topic relevant to child daycare and providers may be included. The Center collects news and updates the page a few times a week.)
* Child daycare includes any facility which cares for infants and toddlers. Many accept infants, toddlers, and preschoolers. Some only accept infants, or infants and toddlers younger than 3 years old.
** Deaths and serious cases are likely to be underreported. More on this will be added to the website later.
*** The proportion of the population of Japan under 15 years of age has been on the decrease since 1982. Only 12.9% of the total population was in that age bracket as of April 1, 2013.