As a registered nurse, I found myself primarily working with children who have special needs. One day my 14-month-old daughter had an asthma attack while in child care. The staff never called to tell me at work because they didn’t recognize the symptoms. I arrived that evening to find my daughter having retractions between her ribs. I immediately rushed her to the emergency room where they diagnosed her with atelectasis (a complete or partial collapse of the lung). She was hospitalized for a week.
My daughter’s doctor suggested I take her out of child care altogether because the sickness of other children could trigger her asthma. Plus, he said the staff was not prepared to take care of her. I told the doctor, “I can’t just not work. I have to support my family. What am I supposed to do?” So, despite his objections, I sent my child back to the same center once she was released from the hospital. I had no other choice.
It was a bad cycle. I had my doctor pressuring me to care for my child at home and the desperate need to keep my job in order to pay mortgage and buy food for my family. After her sixth emergency room visit, I knew what I had to do.
I started offering home-based care in June 2005 for children with special medical needs or disabilities, as well as behavioral or psychological needs. I took out a lien on my home to purchase a commercial building to expand Tipton Adaptive Daycare in January 2012. It took nearly three years to renovate the building. We moved in October 2014. We reached capacity in the first five months of operation. I didn’t take a salary during its first nine months of operation and was working 12-14 hours a day plus weekends, but it has been a labor of love.
Over the years, I have seen many parents enter our doors with the same fear for their child’s safety I once had. The relief on their faces when they learn that a nurse is here makes it all worthwhile. Today, we have ten staff members and serve 35 children. Our licensed capacity recently increased to 86 children, so we are hiring and training new staff right now. Training staff is the biggest challenge we face because the early childhood provider training approved by the state doesn’t typically address how to service children with special medical and psychological needs. I am constantly researching and consolidating information to create educational opportunities for staff on my own.
My daughter is 12 years old now and she is doing exceptionally well.
Deborah VanderGaast, RN, works at Tipton Adaptive Daycare.
Deborah is making a difference in children’s lives every day. We need more qualified and caring individuals like Deborah to support working families. When you support Child Care Aware® of America, it’s an investment in America’s future. Your donation supports professional development opportunities for child care educators and providers like Deborah and our public policy and advocacy efforts on behalf of quality and affordable child care.