MoonDragon's Parenting Information
FORMULATING A CONTRACT FOR YOUR DAY CARE
By Fiona Lohrenz
DAY CARE CONTRACTS
STARTING A DAYCARE - FORMULATING A CONTRACT
Having a foolproof, comprehensive contract in place is a vital aspect of your day care business. Spending some time on this crucial document should be one of your high priorities. Speaking from painful exerience, much potential grief and gnashing of teeth can be avoided by having a well crafted contract.
Quite simply, your day care contract should indicate to parents what you do, how you do it, who you are, your expectations in terms of their behaviour and how you deal with transgressions and complaints - essentially you are setting out your terms, conditions, procedures, rules and policies in a clear and concise manner. Nothing should be left to chance or misinterpretation and gray areas should be non existent.
So, I hear you holler - what should be in this epic tome and how do I even get started! Well, as it happens I have more than a few years of operational experience in this madcap world of day cares and, through much trial, error and ongoing learning have a pretty good idea of the stuff that you need to address. Allow me to give you a few tips and pointers but I'll leave you to do the work of fleshing it out and personalizing your own contract... what?? You don't get off scott free y'know... now get those pencils out!!
I would suggest starting, at the beginning (strangely enough) where you can wax lyrical about your mission statement and ethos generally. Follow that with all aspects of the enrolment process i.e. what forms must be completed, exact hours/days that care will be provided, supplies parents must bring, details of your trial period (sometimes things just don't work out) and cover your termination policy (if you kick my cat on your way in you're outta here!). You would be amazed how much incredibly important stuff is often glossed over so be sure and include your opening hours, late collection penalties, what dates you close, total number of children allowed, ratios of staff to child, insurance and license details. Launch from here into your payment policy and really go into the nitty gritty detail so there is no misunderstanding: How much, when it's due, what happens when one or other party takes a vacation, how and who to pay (you'd be surprised), your policy on late fees (a potentially very destructive element in the day care/parent dynamic if not addressed from the outset), your reservations/deposits procedure and rate increase policy.
Next up I have a general section where I ramble on about the different rooms, programs enacted, beg that toys from home stay at home, information on meals, diaper changing routine and detail a little about my drop off/pick up/settling in procedures (dropping a child off down the chimney is not really encouraged!). My behavior policy is included where I make it very clear exactly what I do in specific situations and…what I don't do (tying a child to a tree is not really an option!). The toilet training policy emphasizes the importance of parent and provider working together and it's helpful to detail your requirements in terms of clothing etc. (it's all very well to have a child run around au naturel at home but when you have vast quantities of toilet training toddlers... well, think about it!!).
Illness is a problematic area of recurring issues and problems. Set down stringent guidelines for your health and illness policy so that there is no doubt as to what your actions will be given specific symptoms and signs. Ultimately, a sick child needs to go home and you cannot have a contagious child in your day care. My sign doesn't say Doctor's Surgery. Have a specific time frame within which a child must be collected once you have contacted the parents and insist that it be respected. Following on from this you can explain your medication administration policy (both prescribed and non-prescribed) which will incorporate the necessary forms.
Let parents know what your preferred method of communication regarding their children is whether a casual chat each evening, individual daily written reports or a small note book with daily comments. Should they require a more in depth discussion reassure them that, while you may be busy they are welcome to make an appointment for a sit down meeting. I have found annual parent/teacher meetings a very effective way to keep everyone up to speed.
So, there you have it! The day care contract or parent handbook in a nutshell... grin. Admittedly there is a lot to consider and quite frankly, this is an organic document that will evolve with your business. Stuff will happen and you will amend your paperwork accordingly. However, I hope that my pointers go some way towards getting you on the road to (even thinking) about formulating your contract. If you need a little more help you can check out my Day Care Paperwork Package at www.childcarepaperwork.com or if you buy my fantastic Start a Day Care DVD Guide you get the paperwork package for FREE www.startchildcare.com. Believe me, your contract will save you much grief and minimize the tears shed as you go about running your day care (there will be tears though... but lots of laughs too!!)
Owning and operating a day care for 10 years provides Fiona Lohrenz with lots of material for her child care articles. Not to mention her childcare website and DVD guide to Starting a ChildCare business at www.startchildcare.com.
This article was submitted by Fiona Lohrenz for electronic reproduction on www.moondragon.org March 5, 2008. Thank you Fiona for your contribution.
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