By Jenny Glover
The childcare at Intersection is designed for all children aged between day 1
and age 12. There will be three groups for children of different ages. Childcare
will run from 9.30am to 6pm all day from Friday to Sunday and for half a day
on Thursday afternoon and Monday morning. In the evenings, there will be
family programming which will be suitable for children, parents and anyone else
who is interested .
The childcare laws in Great Britain are extremely strict and so there will be one adult volunteer to every five children for the older groups and one adult volunteer to every three children for the babies and toddlers. In the evenings, although there will probably be some volunteer help, it will be assumed that the parents are close by the children.
Group 1 . This will be for babies and toddlers up to about 3 1/2 and will be in the Moathouse Hotel, which is adjacent to the con site. Vicky Evans will be in charge here. She is young, calm, efficient and has looked after several British convention creches. The programme will centre round Thomas the Tank Engine, with lots of dressing up, and there will also be story times, music and a few videos.
Group 2. This will be for children of 3 1/2 to 6 1/2 and will be in Hall IV, which is where the dealers' room, art show, fan fair and catering outlets will be. Julie Rigby will be in overall charge, assisted by Rob Glover. Julie is particularly good with young children and is, of course, young and calm. For the programme, each day will have a particular theme, like pirates or the jungle, and activities will match the theme (like modelling, mask making or fossil casts).
Group 3. This will also be in Hall IV and will be for children of 7 to 12. Jack Davies will be the co-ordinator here, assisted by Marion Bird. They are both very experienced with looking after children and are, of course, calm and efficient. The thrust of the programme will be aimed at putting on a production and all aspects will be covered from publicity to tech. to designing a dragon to providing the sound effects. Parents and friends will be welcome to see the finished production on Sunday.
That doesn't mean that all the programme will take place indoors. There will
also be field trips, to places like the River CIyde or the Transport Museum.
Children who are coming should bring old clothes which can be splashed with paint plus one t-shirt specifically for fabric painting. It will be helpful for everyone coming to bring one toy or book which can be contributed to the communal toy stack and then after the con is over, they can be donated to the local children's hospice.
To pay for all the activities and materials, it will cost £1 ($l.50) per child per hour during the day (less if the parents are actively involved in working with the convention). For that small amount, parents will have complete peace of mind that the children are enjoying the con just as much as they are.
by Jenny Glover
This letter is going to go to the childcare co-ordinators, the volunteers and a few other interested parties and so is going to be a bit of a jumble. Not everything will be totally relevant, but I hope that it will be all interesting.
I'll start with the blackest possible scenario. Disaster. If there is any sort of disaster which is likely to harm the group (I'm thinking here of fire, bomb scare, floods from heaven), the top priority is to get the kids out of the SECC. There are several possible meeting places outside, like in the carpark. This is one of the minor motives for scheduling walkabout items (Thomas the Tank Engine goes walkabout for group 1 and Space treasure hunt for group 2) so that the kids will know how to get out and where to go, should they need to. When I contact the parents, I have told them to get out themselves, and not to come for the kids, because that will only mess things up worse than they already may be. However, it's not something I think will happen.
A more likely scenario is the case of a forgetful parent. What are we to do if a parent doesn't collect a kid? I think the responsibility lies with the co-ordinators here, to make sure that they get details on where the parents are staying (hotel, guest house, friends and so on) before the kid is left in their charge. I shall design a form and this must be filled up when the kid first registers (things like allergies if any, medication, if any (hope not!), who the kid is, what age, what sex and the necessary release waivers, like the co-ordinators being able to take the kid out of the SECC on field trips and to hospital if necessary. It is possible to threaten to exclude a kid from childcare, but that is counter- productive. An excluded kid would be more disruptive, ok, not in the childcare section, but, which is worse, in the rest of the con area, and it would still need to be dealt with.
If the kid gets damaged, it's up to the coordinators to make a first assessment (ie is the kid losing too much blood, is there a broken limb, is it an epileptic fit, whatever). All of the childcare volunteers have some knowledge of first aid, to my knowledge, but we need to find out where the first aid place will be and also have on tap what to do for very minor injuries, like wasp stings and grazes.
If the parent gets damaged and is unable to collect the kid (and that had better not happen!), I guess I'll take the ultimate buck and take the kid until some substitute gets found.
All information will be posted near or at the information desk and there will probably be a noticeboard at the Hall IV childcare area as well.
2. Trouble shooting
There will inevitably be some problems on the day and I will be stuck in the fan programme area. though I will be able to come out for an absolute emergency (and please don't pick a time when I'm on a panel item!) I have asked Tara Glover, Carina Bjorklind and Margo Zenk if they would be kind enough to act as an international trouble shooting team. They may be based in the fan lounge, as being convenient to the childcare area and I hope that they will either be on call to solve any problems or suggest alternative courses of action or they will stroll round to each childcare area regularly to check if anyone needs any help. Kurt Siegel has very kindly offered a phone to childcare, and that will be invaluable when one group goes on a field trip.
3. Kids not in childcare
Yes, there will be kids at the con not in childcare. Some of these kids will not be used to being in a playscheme environment, others just want to stay with their parents, others will consider themselves too old to be in childcare. My attitude is that if the kids are behaving, fine. If the kids are disruptive, then the security stewards will swing into action and the kids will end up in childcare. Not a prospect I am looking forward to, but we must be prepared for it.
I have asked other department heads if they could give a bit of attention to this potential problem and to think if any parts of their programme are child friendly without being specifically for children ... I suspect that the kids will probably gravitate to the media aspects of the programme and videos.
4. Costs and numbers
This is a major headache. Before I left Leeds, I asked all parents and kids who had purchased memberships to confirm whether they were coming. The responses were patchy. Currently 85 children are registered. I know a few of these will not be coming, but others keep joining. I estimate that Vicky will have about 15-20 babies/toddlers in Group 1, Julie will probably have 20-25 young kids in Group 2, and Jack will probably have 3040 kids in Group 3. I have therefore thrown as much of the resources towards Group 3 as possible.
Costs. I have reluctantly opened childcare up on Thursday morning and Monday afternoon, but I don't think that it need be charged for, as it will be basically set up/strike down. I know, as a parent, that there is nothing more irritating than arriving at a con early and not being able to find a good place for the kids, so the kids will be welcome, but there won't be the total number of gophers, there will be no programming and there will be quite a lot going on.
This is something for you co-ordinators to think about; I was wondering if it might be possible to make a corner with books and colouring books, so that the kids can at least be doing something and if the kids can help a little without upsetting/irritating everyone else, so much the better. I don't know what numbers will be involved for Thursday morning and Monday afternoon. As far as payment is concerned, I suggest £4 for half a day (Thursday afternoon, Monday morning) and £8 for a full day (Friday, Saturday, Sunday). The family programming at night will be free.
There may be some additional expenses needed for the field trips, like bus fares to get there. This is more or less £l/hour, but I think it should be manageable. Parents must pay when they register the kid (ie in advance). That's another job for the coordinators and that's one reason why I've scheduled something for the kids to do during registration, the first half hour of each day.
Co-ordinators and programme planners (that's Tara and I) will have a scarlet t shirt with a Sue Mason design on. I have ordered them in XL, to fit everyone. Gophers will be allocated one after working three shifts of three hours. Parents and other interested parties will be most welcome to order them -- I don't think I can afford to print enough in the first batch.
I would like all the childcare helpers to be scheduled as gophers. This affords a certain amount of protection (in that gophers will get some form of food or drink at regular intervals). The only (very slight) risk is that gophers are fair game for anyone who needs them, so we'd just better make sure that our childcare gophers are needed full time!
6. What is everyone going to do, at the con?
Right. I enclose a copy of the programme, as worked out by Tara and I. You will know just as well as I do that children can be completely unpredictable, and so this programme could simply just not work or one programme item may last longer than I think it should. To allow for slippage, I have built in regular "storytime" slots into Groups 1 and 2 and I have scheduled cartoons for each lunchtime. That is because I suspect that the kids will go off at awkward times (which is why there are going to be more gophers than usual about at lunchtime) so the lunches will be staggered. Could I ask all the co-ordinators to look at the programme please, and think about whether they think it will work and if not, what can be put in their place.
The co-ordinators are going to take the brunt of the childcare, that's Vicky, Julie and Jack. You three will be responsible for making sure that when the kids arrive the parents fill in a form and hand over some money; that the parents leave some form of contact address (like the hotel they are staying in), that the special needs of every kid is documented and dealt with. The co-ordinators will be responsible for dealing with on the spot minor emergencies (accidents, tears) and will have surprise programme ideas to slot in should there be an embarrassing gap where one of the programme items devised by Tara and I just don't work. The co-ordinators will be in childcare from 9.30am to 6.30pm, apart from taking an hour for lunch and after that. they will be under special instructions to go off and have some fun in the evenings!
The assistants, like Hugh Mascetti, will be in place to look after their groups when the co-ordinator is busy or elsewhere. I guess the job description will be ensuring the well being of the group. and that means gophers, parent helpers and kids without being swamped themselves. It's certainly not the easiest of jobs. but could be one of the most rewarding.
The volunteers will have chosen to come to childcare to help and will be made most welcome! One of the keystones of the whole childcare programme is that there should be a high adult presence and so every volunteer who comes will help produce this and therefore make life an awful lot easier for everyone. It will help the kids, for example, to know that they are in a group with a certain adult. I know that volunteers will want to see a bit of the con occasionally, but there is the slight incentive of a scarlet t-shirt after working three shifts ...
The parents have all been asked to work one shift of three hours. Some parents will work one shift of three hours each, others will share the shift between them. I haven't enforced anything here, except to point out that childcare needs parental input desperately, firstly to keep up the child:adult ratio and secondly so that the parents can see that, yes, the kids are having quite a good time after all.
Tara Glover is the overall programme co-ordinator. She will form part of the trouble shooting team and knows about as much about childcare as I do (though I notice that she's not the one who is typing this at 3 in the morning). Jenny Glover, that's me, has been doing the background administrative stuff. I'm one of those people who actually enjoy administration and fitting jigsaw pieces together, so it has mostly been a pleasant job. But I don't want to be called upon while the con is on for anything less than a fullscale emergency. This is because I will need to concentrate on my own area of the fan programme. Rob Glover will be assisting Julie Rigby in Group 2, although technically he is too old for it. This is because he is surprisingly good with younger kids and reassures them easily.
7. What can I do before the con?
It is very important to consider what materials will be needed at the con. You can start now, collecting things like cardboard toilet roll holders. Cardboard small boxes, plastic trays from the supermarket, egg boxes, bits of bubble wrap or wallpaper: all these can be very useful and can be collected with very little effort. Coloured or textured paper would be good, coloured pencils or felts. Remember: if you buy anything, remember two things. The first is that childcare is on a small budget and the money will probably not arrive until at the con when the parents pay and the second is GET A VAT RECEIPT if you can. This is important, as VAT can be reclaimed and is likely to add up to an awful lot of money.
A lot of the programme items will need to be done by the people who are helping. This is pa rtly because the programme has been completed so late (less than 2 months to the con, folks) and partly because the programme will lose 70% of the flexibility if people come at a set time for a set item.
Remember that the con is supposed to be fun for everyone, kids, helpers, volunteers and above all you, whoever you are, wherever you are.
by Fiona Anderson
This section was put into the Ops Manual, after liaising with Jenny, so that our staff and stewards would know how to deal with the various potential problems that might arise involving children. Some of the scenarios are extremely unlikely, some are more common.
1. Parents want to sign up for Childcare/Kidcon
Send them to appropriate group and tell them they will have to pay for it. 0-3.5 years in Moathouse, and 3.5-12 years Hall 4
There is a leaflet available about Kidcon/Childcare
2. Lost child (under 5 years old) somewhere in the SECC
Call Kidcon and Childcare first - many fans will take stray children there immediately.
Find out description of child and clothing.
Call our Security and SECC Security to search for child.
3. Lost child (under 12 years old)
Remember to ask child when found if the person is their parent or not.
4. Lost child (under 16 years old)
As above. Again remember to ask child if the person is parent or not.
5. Children causing havoc - racing round in Hall 4 chasing each other.
Ask Stewards to stop children and escort them back to Childcare area - Stewards are NOT to touch children. If children persist call in SECC Security to deal with.
6. Children causing havoc - a small group doing petty thefts for dares in the Dealer's Room
Ask Stewards to stop children.
Call Ops DCM to authorise exclusion, and refund of membership money:
Find parents - escort parents and children out of SECC, exclude from convention.
Do NOT touch any children or parents - ask SECC Security to deal with difficult types.
7. Children causing havoc - being rude to congoers - shouting and causing upsets.
. Find parents - warn parents that if behaviour persists they and their children may be excluded from con.
Call Ops DCM to authorise possible exclusion, and refund of membership money.
8. Parents late to collect children by 30 minutes.
Is there a reasonable excuse? If not Childcare will give them a warning that next time it happens they will not be allowed further use of Childcare facility.
9. Parents late to collect children by 3 hours
Is there a reasonable excuse? If not they will be excluded from further use of Childcare facility.
10. Sick child.
Report to SECC medical staff immediately. Do NOT do any first aid.
The SECC medical staff then decide if an ambulance needs to be called.
Ask SECC to tannoy for parents .
Implement First Aid/Medical emergency procedure (see Emergencies section)
Generally fannish children are well behaved and you are unlikely to encounter the more serious behavioural problems here - though it has happened on odd occasions.
by Fiona Anderson
Before 1 get onto anything else, let me say I thought Jenny and her team did an excellent job of Childcare and Kidcon, and I am extremely grateful to them all!
There are 2 main problems with Childcare - getting enough volunteers to staff it, and the legal stuff.
I am firmly of the opinion that in future any Worldcon here should indeed use professionals only and preferably one of those companies that does it for pro exhibitions, who will have all the right gear to keep the kids occupied and happy as well.
It's just too much for volunteers, both on numbers of staff to children, and the possible extended hours looking after kids, when either your relief or the parents don't turn up - other stuff you can walk away from, but not: kids - and on the sheer hassle and worry side of things.
The second question of legality here is now an absolute nightmare -- as no-one knows the legal position. We have very recently had new laws introduced by the EEC to cover Childcare and Childminding, but none have yet been tested in a court here...so there are no precedents to follow.
I believe that Intersection was able to get away with using volunteers because we were only a 5-day event, where apparently the new laws cover events/situations of' 6 or more days in a year.
I think next time, we must: bite the bullet, find out the names and contact details of such companies, and costs, and just put aside a much greater budget for paying for pro Childcare
If it means we have to cut something else to pay for it, then we must do so.
By all means we should encourage our own fans to run Kidcon style items, as well, but the primary care should not be done by fans who get far too overloaded with it.