Contracts and policies are so important for your childcare business. If you don’t treat your business like a business, it will not run as well as it should and you will probably end up burning out. If you are having trouble establishing your paperwork for your business, read on and find out how to develop it in a systematic and simple way.
Contracts deal with time and money, policies are rules about other things. Contracts must be signed if you change any part of them, policies can be changed as you wish. The contract is a legal binding document, the policies just help spell out expectations. Tom Copeland has some great advice on writing a contract, click here to check it out.
Let’s start with contracts and handle policies next.
What does your childcare contract need to cover?
Your business rules can be whatever you want them to be with the exception of any type of discrimination. Think about what is most important to you and set your business up with those rules. Click here to see what many seasoned childcare providers think are the most important rules.
Your contract should state your name, the parent’s names and the children’s names childcare is being provided for.
Your contract should state the days and hours you are open and which of those hours care is available for this family. Some providers are open something like 12 hours a day, but only watch each child for a certain number of hours such as 9.
Your contract should state any holidays you will be taking and whether they are paid or not. It should also include vacation days for you and whether those are paid or not. It’s a good idea to get paid for some of your days off if not all of them. Most parents have paid holidays, why shouldn’t you?
The contract should state what parents owe you. Weekly fees, field trip fees, art fees, transportation fees or whatever fees you are going to charge need to be outlined in the contract. It should also state when they are to pay you. I allow parents to choose their paydays for me but they have to stick to those days. There is no saying, I want to pay once a month and then coming in and saying, I’m going to pay for this week. We have to sign a new contract and AGREE that we are changing payment dates.
Your contract SHOULD state that parents have to pay a week in advance for care. You should stick to this rule, it will save you so much trouble in the future.
Your contract should state what parents are responsible to provide and what you provide. My contract says parents are responsible for diapers, wipes and a change of clothes.
Your contract should introduce your substitute and for what situations that person would be left in charge of the kids. No one should come to pick up and find someone they don’t know watching their children.
The contract should state how the care provided will end. My contract states that two weeks’ notice is required to terminate it. Parents are responsible for paying for two weeks if they decide not to finish care. My contract also states that the first two weeks are a trial period for parents, provider and child. That way if I decide a family is not a good fit for my business, the contract will end.
Your contract should state that you are a mandated reporter of suspected child abuse and sex trafficking behaviors. This is something that should be handled up front and having it in your contract is a great way to get it out there.
Discrimination-make sure you state you do not discriminate for any reason and make sure you don’t. It’s not okay to choose clients by race, sex, religion, national origin, or disability. This is illegal. My contract states, children will not be discriminated against for any reason.
It’s a good idea to disclose something that may be of concern to parents. My DHS worker suggested I disclose our pets and our religious beliefs. I think this is a very wise idea. We always have cats, so the interview is a good time to talk about that in case someone has a child that is allergic to cats. I have watched children of pagan parents, atheist parents, and agnostic parents. I am a Jesus loving Christian but I disclose that in my contract so no one is taken by surprise. You would be amazed at how well we worked it out. I told them up front we pray, the kids learn about God and Jesus, etc. They were fine with it and dealt with it in their own way at home.
Being open and honest is the best policy in any situation. If your husband is at home 24/7 and helps with the daycare, parents have a right to know that. If he works odd hours and sleeps during the day, they should know that too. If you have grown kids that visit or live in the home, have a friend over to visit, or anything like that, it’s important to disclose it. Anything you think might be of importance to a parent, it’s best to let them know up front.
Signatures should be on the contract, both of the parents if possible and yours.
Please make sure you don’t include rules in your contracts and policies that you are not willing to enforce. What this does is show parents you are not serious about any of your rules. If you’re not willing to make people pay a late fee, take it out of the contract. The things in the contract should be very serious and always enforced.
Keep your contract as short as possible. Parents are much more likely to read a shorter contract and to pay attention and take notice of what is mentioned there. Policies should be as short as you can make them as well.
Contracts and policies have similar purposes, but some differences. The remaining items you want to communicate to parents will be in your policies.
Does your state have any rules about what has to be included in your policy book? In Oklahoma, we do. Click here to see the requirements and a sample of my policy book.
Some of the things childcare policies should include are:
Discipline and guidance procedures.
Procedures for the day. Let parents know anything about how you run the business that would be of importance to them. You can’t expect them to always have their child their by 9 am if you don’t let them know that is your rule.
Your outdoor play policy. I take the kids outside to play, weather permitting, any time it’s between 40 and 90 degrees, that is in my policy book. Also, kids get dirty here. We garden, we play hard, it’s a dirty job to be a kid. So, I let people know that in advance.
Your daily schedule or activities kids will participate in regularly.
Your inclement weather policies. How do you deal with dangerous weather? Do you close on snow days? Parents need to know what to expect.
Your training and education.
Emergency contact numbers.
What are the reasons you would chose to terminate care? Those should be explained in your policies.
Emergency and disaster plans should be in your policies as well. Parents should be informed on what procedures you will take in caring for their child should a disaster or emergency occur. Where might you relocate to? Where will you shelter? What supplies do you have in place for children’s safety?
I have a form at the end of my policies for parents to sign they have read and understand the policies. I feel that covers me from any extra problems later with someone saying, I didn’t know anything about that.
What do you do if someone does not want to follow your contract and policies? This is a big indicator that your business relationship with this person is not going to work out. You need to tell them it’s not a good fit and you cannot provide care for them. If they cannot agree to your rules, they will not respect your business and the way you run it. It will not turn out well, I promise.
Making sure your business is being run like one will help you gain respect and appreciation from your parents. Having contracts and policies in place will show families you are serious and want to give high quality care to their kids. If you act professionally and show your parents respect, they are much more likely to respect you. If you are giving and receiving respect from your parents, you are much less likely to burn out and hate this job. You will enjoy your work and be successful. That’s what I’d really like to see for everyone.
Feel free to ask any questions and I’ll answer them if I can. I’d love to help you make sure your business is all it can be. Let your contract and policies work for your business and you!
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