Formulating a Day Care Contract
A vital aspect of your day care business is having a foolproof, comprehensive contract in place. Spending some time on this crucial document should be one of your high priorities. Believe me when I tell you that a well crafted contract can save you from much potential grief and gnashing of teeth (I speak from painful experience!!).
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. There should be no gray areas, nothing left to chance or misinterpretation.
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.
I have what I call my 'rambling section' where I rattle on about general stuff such as the different programs we offer, meals information, advice on drop off/pick up/settling in procedures (please don't parachute your child in!), diaper changing routine and a few lines where I beg parents not to bring toys in from home!! I include my behaviour policy where I document what actions I will take in specific situations plus!.what I don't do (duct taping a child to a chair is not really an option!). Parent and provider cooperation is emphasized in the toilet training policy right down to what clothing should be worn (having your child run around naked doing the business at home is one thing!large groups of toilet training toddlers is quite another!).
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.
Communication with parents is vital so let them know your preferred method i.e. informal, verbal report in the evening, individual report sheets or a little daily journal. Reassure them though that, while you may be busy they can also make an appointment to meet with you for a more in-depth discussion should the need arise. Scheduling annual parent/teacher meetings is another effective method of ensuring that everyone is up to date and on the same page.
And that's it!! Your day care contract in a nutshell!cheeky grin. Quite frankly, there is a lot to consider and as your business evolves so will this organic document. You will amend your paperwork on an ongoing basis as needed. I hope my article has been a little helpful in getting you a tad closer to formulating your own 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. Both you and your day care can only benefit from a well designed contract and though there will be tear your hair out days your formidable contract should help to minimize them.
Fiona Lohrenz drew on her 10 years experience of running a day care to found ChildCareOnly.com and produce a 'How to Start a ChildCare Business' DVD guide: Start a Day Care Fiona can be reached at her website: Child Care Provider Resources
Published January 28th, 2008