What happens if I lose a Child?
Keeping children safe
Losing a child is a very scary thing to happen. Once you have found them and taken a breath you need to write it up – say what happened, how you responded (following your lost child procedures) and the end result (whether the child was found or not).
You need to inform Ofsted as soon as possible – the legal requirement in the EYFS is to inform them about significant events and anything related to safeguarding within 14 days but they will want you to let them know a lot quicker than that – firstname.lastname@example.org.
Some Local Safeguarding Children Boards want childminders to report this sort of incident to them as well - you need to take advice locally. Your Local Safeguarding Children Board contact details will be on your Safeguarding and Child Protection Policy and Procedures.
Assuming the child was found and returned to you and all was well, email Ofsted and give them brief outline of what happened and that you followed your lost child procedures, for example:
A child aged 3 was lost while we were at the park. He ran through the gate while I was changing a baby’s nappy. I was within ratios (2 under 5s) and I had explained to him that he needed to stay close to me but he was laughing and thought it was a game. I implemented my lost child procedures and alerted other adults that he had run off and we started a search of the local area. He was found within 5 minutes walking down a street adjacent to the park by a lady who rang me after checking his ‘I am with my childminder’ wrist band. I have informed his parents of the incident and they have said they are contacting Ofsted to make a complaint. In the future I will update my risk assessment to say that if I have to change nappies (or stop focussing 100% on the children) while we are on an outing such as at the park any other children in my care will be strapped into the buggy to keep them safe.
In some cases, lost child incidents do not end well – the child might not be found safely or they might have been abducted. You must still follow your procedures by writing it up and informing Ofsted and the Local Safeguarding Children Board but in this instance you would also need to inform the local police (your procedures should state that if you cannot find the child after a quick check of the local area you alert the police) and your insurance company.
The family of the child who went missing might feel that they can no longer trust you and want to withdraw their child immediately from your care. They are within their rights to do this and ask for any money they have paid in advance back. You have failed to safeguard their child which is a very serious breach of the statutory requirements. My advice is to be as professional as possible: tell them - here's your money - here's your child's learning journey file and any other bits you keep at your house for the child - thank them for being understanding and walk away.
Meanwhile, you will need to be prepared for an Ofsted compliance inspector’s visit. Ofsted do not always come out for incidents like this but it does happen if they are concerned a child has been put at risk or if, for example, you have a few similar incidents on your file. Make sure you have written everything up in an incident report (if possible ask parents to sign it) and think about what you can learn from the incident and how you might change things in the future. It's really important to reflect on mistakes - Ofsted will want to see this as part of your outing risk assessment.
If Ofsted do not visit you, put the incident report and a copy of your updated risk assessment together in a file and keep it until your next routine inspection (which might be brought forward as a result of the incident). Your inspector will want to discuss the incident with you and will ask you to detail any changes you have made as a result of what happened.
While written risk assessments are not a requirement of the EYFS it is important to have them in place for inside the house, the garden and different types of outings to demonstrate to children’s parents, Ofsted and your insurance company (in the event of a serious accident or incident) that you take children’s safety seriously. It is a requirement of the Childcare Register to have a written Safeguarding and Child Protection Policy and Procedures and part of safeguarding is to detail your procedures if a child is lost or missing on an outing or from your premises. Policies, procedures and risk assessments should be updated annually and as legislation changes – you will also want to review and update them after incidents like this.
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