June 23, 2024

The Nerve Archive

Where Government Gets Exposed

Preschool Worker: Somebody Tell DSS to Stop Micromanaging Us


We appreciate the diligence, but please, let us do our job.

My husband owns a small business, and from time to time I’ve heard him say, “You can’t take a pee anymore without a government permission slip.”

Please excuse the slight vulgarity. I bring it up because, in my line of work, it’s almost literally true. I work in a preschool in the Upstate. Each year, a representative from the state Department of Social Services comes and basically tells us all the things we’re doing wrong. Every year it’s something different: the fence around the playground is unsafe, our paperwork’s not right, the hallway isn’t wide enough, there are too many kids in one place, etc., etc.

Two years ago, we learned we had to keep a written record of each child’s location at all times of the day. So when the kids go to recess, we mark “playground” in the class log. When it’s raining, we mark “gym.” If one kid has to go to the nurse, we record that. If two or three go to the activity center to rehearse for the school play, we put it in the log.

It’s a bit of a nuisance – you end up paying more attention to that clipboard than you do to the kids – but it’s doable.

This year, though, we were told we had to record in the log every time one of the kids goes to the bathroom. Like, every time. And not just that – one of the adults has to accompany the child to the bathroom, and we have to record that.

Of course, every kid in the class has to go to the bathroom at least once, and sometimes one of them will get the bathroom bug and “have to go” several times. Each time, a little “R” for restroom” goes into the log.

This is out of control. All the teachers are now obsessing over this crazy log. I feel like we’re a bunch of transpotters, madly scribbling down meaningless information to satisfy some bizarre longing – although in this case it’s coming from some team of bureaucrats at DSS.

It’s not as if DSS has a stellar record of ensuring child safety. The number of children who’ve been abused or killed while under the agency’s care is long enough to worry anybody. And while I’m sure many of those incidents are not the fault of anybody at DSS, and that its inspectors are just trying to do their job the best they can, it’s still true that a disaster-prone agency is trying to micromanage private care facilities that do a far sight better job of taking care of kids than any government agency.

Now, if you’ll excuse me . . .

Margaret Brandt is a preschool worker in Anderson, South Carolina.


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The Nerve