A Root Cause Analysis for a child’s skinned knee

At various points in my career as a software architect at companies providing SaaS (software-as-a-service) offerings, I have found myself helping to write up a Root Cause Analysis (RCA) document in the event of an unexpected system issue, such as a server failure.  These documents tend to cover a couple of key areas, including the event date/duration, business impact (e.g. some users received errors), root cause (e.g. the server was out of disk space), intervention steps (e.g. web log files were archived) and steps to prevent a recurrence (e.g. an alarm has been set up to send a warning when the disk is 90% full).
When I came home from work this evening, I found that my daughter’s day care had sent an “Injury/Illness Report Form”.  It seems that my daughter had fallen while playing on the playground and skinned her knee.  The form was extensive, including the date/time of the injury, a description of what happened, first aid that was given (“a band aide, some TLC were applied”, according to the form).  In other words, they sent an RCA for my daughter’s skinned knee. 

Of particular amusement to me was the inclusion of a section for “Description of any corrective action taken to prevent similar occurrence”, as all good RCA documents will have.  In this section, they had written, “Remind children to run on the wood chips away from concrete path.” 

Anyone who has ever tried to remind an over-excited child to slow down and not run so fast on the concrete knows how futile this is until they fall down and bump themselves a few times. 

Every parent has to find their own style.  Some are more protective than others, but I personally lean towards trying to nurture independence.  If my children fall and bang themselves, my first reaction is not to swoop in, pick them up, and wipe away their tears.  I encourage them to get up, brush it off, and try again.  Sometimes that works, and sometimes they run to me and need me to pick them up and wipe their tears, and that’s okay too.  But fundamentally, I look at scraped knees and banged elbows as good things.  The child is developing dexterity, exploring their physical limits, and learning how to deal with problems.  Frankly, if they don’t come home with the occasional band aide, I’d be worried. 

I do recognize that I need to allow different levels of independence with each of my kids.  Both are very physically active, but my younger son has less caution than my daughter did when she was his age.  When my daughter was two, I knew that she was very aware of her limits and she could safely walk over to the top of the stairs unaccompanied, because she knew not to go over the edge (this would sometimes freak out other nearby adults who did not know her as well).  My son has more of a kamikaze nature to him, and I would never let him do the same thing.  He has done some very silly things in his day and could very well make a leap.  He’s just a different kid. 

If it were up to me, my school wouldn’t send an RCA for a silly little scrape that required nothing more than a band aide and TLC.  But I know it’s not up to me or them.  The RCA form appears to be some sort of state mandated document, and I am sure that this level of documentation has many important reasons, including protecting children in abusive situations and other horrible things I am lucky enough to not have to think about. 

But part of me still wishes that in the “corrective action taken to prevent similar occurrence”, the answer could have simply been, “Accidents happen.” 


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