Today I am getting into what I call the “Art of On-time Drop-off & Pick-up” with parents. I think I just heard HALLELUJAH! Believe me, I really could have used a how-to for this when I first started my childcare. Parents were popping in and out whenever they wanted, disregarding agreed to times and killing my ratios. I bet you know what I mean. Well, no more! Today I am outlining the seven keys to on-time drop-off & pick-up for childcare.
7 Keys to On-time Drop-off & Pick-up
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1. Have a Clear Policy
What is your drop-off & pick-up policy? Do you have one? What are the specifics of it? Do you allow parents to drop-off & pick-up at any point during your working hours? Or do you require them to adhere to a contracted time? This is your first line of defense. It is so important to not only have a drop-off & pick-up policy but to know it in detail.
Once you have a drop-off & pick-up policy be sure to incorporate it into your contract. This is another reason why the almighty contract is so important. It lets your client’s know just what is expected of them. Having this policy in your contract gives you something to refer back to should there be an issue with what was agreed to by you and the client.
Finally, be sure to put the drop-off & pick-up policy in your Parent Handbook and on your website as well. Again, this is to (re)inform your clients of the policy. Consider revisiting it annually to ensure it is in line with your current business needs and is kept up-to-date.
2. Have Reminders
Yes, I know what you are thinking, “Why should I have to remind parents of the policies if I have it in my contract?”
I hear ya!
Well, the sad truth of the matter is many parents may not read the contract or at least not all of it. And even if they did read it, they may not retain all of the information.
I am actually a huge proponent of creating reminders to have at the ready to send out to parents. I call them ticklers, but what they really are are sanity maintainers. They are prewritten reminders, emails, text or notes that can be sent out to parents whenever I see a problem arising with policy issues.
It may be just one client or it might be a few. If you have reminders ready to go you can quickly get the situation under control again.
And yes, it is a little more work for the provider. But wouldn’t you rather do a little more work to potentially avoid a lot more frustration? I sure would!
3. Enforce Late Fees
Ok, I just felt you cringe. I know! It is not easy or at least not a fun thing to do but this one is important.
This is where the battle is won or lost.
You have to enforce the late fees. Just like tuition, late fees are a necessary evil. In this case, they are to discourage clients from continuing to make the same mistake. In short, they encourage them to pick-up & drop-off as agreed to. So in actuality, they are a good thing because in this case, the goal is for the late fee to be avoided.
The good news is parents are just like anyone else, no wants to pay more. That (hopefully) makes having to ask for, or in the case of the client, pay late fees a rare occurrence. Again, this is to encourage a better outcome.
What I’m saying is if you get firm with this you will find parents violating this policy less.
4. Call Them Out
If you notice that a child that is usually picked up by a certain time is still in your care, don’t be afraid to call and check in with the parent. Let me be the one to give you permission. It is OK to let them know you realize they are late.
I once had a client who completely forgot to pick up his two daughters from my child care. He actually went all the way home and his wife had to remind him to go back and pick them up. Of course, by then the girls were freaking out because all of their friends had left and they were used to being one of the first ones to leave.
If you don’t let parents know that it is a big deal, they will take it as a little deal and probably do it again.
5. Be Confident
As a provider, I don’t even need to ask because I am sure that your policies are borne out of necessity. Either from a licensing standpoint or your unique business needs. That being said, you need to stand up for your business practices and policies confidently.
Know that your time is just as important as anyone elses!
I know it can be hard at first, but if you start out strong you can finish strong. Try having the mindset that you will retain clients and gain credibility when you actively avoid problems.
It’s not just a minor thing! Not respecting one policy will likely lead to more! More time is more time!
6. Make Few Exceptions
Listen, I know what it’s like to want to be nice to a client and be understanding of their issues. But it is just that “their issue”.
I remember my assistant of many years ago pointing out to me, “Ms. A, you have 10 families. So does that mean each week you have 10 problems?” The answer is NO.
The policies and procedures you have are there for a reason. Most likely, for the most part, they are there to ensure your business is sustainable.
It actually makes things easier for you and your clients when you are consistent.
I once asked a colleague of mine what she thought a parent might think when she made an exception to her rule. She said she thought they would think she was a nice person. I advised her that what they might be thinking is that her policies are actually optional. That if she bent them once it would be most likely she would bend them again.
Just like with the children you care for, you will actually gain your client’s professional respect when you enforce your policies. Most likely you will find that you will not need to revisit that issue again with that client.
7. Do Not Be Intimidated
I know it can be a scary thing to ask a parent for Late Fees. You may feel that you might lose that client if you do. But remember, you are just doing what you said (in the contract) you would do. The client should be doing what they said they would do (in the contract). It is important that you learn to say NO!
Standing up for your policies is part of the job.
Like I said above, many parents might not be aware of your drop-off & pick-up policy just because they did not read the contract. So it is part of your job to remind them that it does exist. Remember, if parents violate one policy they will probably not feel bad about violating another one as well.
Just think of it as growing that peverbial backbone.
Ok, Now Get-Ur-Done
Addressing policy issues can be a bit tough. It can be uncomfortable, but you and your policies are your business’ only line of defense. It is part of your job to care for it just as much as it is your job to care for the children you serve. Hopefully, these seven keys will help you to master the Art of On-time Pick-up & Drop-off.
Are drop-off & pick-up times a pain point for you? Do you feel parents are taking advantage of you in this way? Did you get anything out of today’s post? It would make my day if you told me about it. Please leave a comment below.
Photos courtesy of: Flickr