Today I want to talk about setting your child care hours. I know what you are thinking. This is one of those things that seems like a no-brainer right? You figure out what hours you want to be open, tell the parents and that’s it.
Well, it turns out it’s not such no-brainer after all. In nearly 20 years I have seen it all. Parents sitting in my driveway until 6:00 pm on the dot. EVERYONE arriving early one day. Parents going all the way home and forgetting to pick up their child. I even had a parent tell me that, working an extra 30-45 minutes (a day) was just a little more work. child care hours
Yeah, this used to happen to me ALOT! That is until I figured out a couple of ways to ensure it doesn’t happen anymore (at least not that often). child care hours
Parents don’t realize coming early or arriving late can throw you out of ratio (not to mention overwhelm you) and arriving after hours can actually put a child care provider out of our licensed operating hours. All of this could result in a citation and/or fines.
But if we don’t say something, they think it’s no big deal. So let’s talk about how to go about setting your child care hours. Oh, and more importantly, how to enforce them. child care hours
Setting Your Child Care Hours
One of the first things to keep in mind (always) is that as a licensed provider, we usually must stipulate on our license application the hours that we intend to be open or operating. I know some providers who run their businesses on a 24-hour basis but for most of us it’s closer to a usual workday between the hours of 6 a.m. and 7 p.m., Monday thru Friday. That being the case, our license is most likely aligned with those same hours. child care hours
What is so important for a provider to remember is that the state we are licensed in is treating our business just like any other state-run business. We are licensed to operate our business only for the hours indicated on our license. It is very clear.
What that means is operating before or after those hours is illegal and could be subject to citation and fines. child care hours
I personally have heard stories of a licensing analyst sitting in their car outside a provider’s business and watching for and counting when children began entering the child care.
In my state of California, a provider can be visited by licensing up to one hour before or after the hours set on their license. If a provider is found to be operating their business outside of their licensed hours they can be subject to a violation against their license and hefty fines. This is no small thing! child care hours
Of course, whenever you interview (or even receive phone calls from) a new family more than likely will ask what your hours are. Parents, understandably, are looking for care that fits their family’s needs. What is a little more of interest to the provider is what are the parents hours? Specifically, what are the hours that the family will be using the childcare? In most cases, these will be the contracted hours or the hours indicated in the contract with that specific family.
Why is this so important?
Well, as I said earlier, providers have mandated ratios that we must adhere to. If we are not aware of who will be in care and when it makes it almost impossible to maintain those ratios. You will need to know if you will have 1 child at 7 a.m. or 7 p.m.
After only a short while in business I noticed parents taking “liberties” with their contracted drop-off and pick-up times. I remember one day when just about everyone was dropped off early? I knew I had to make a change. So I made the decision to encourage my clients to stick to their “contracted” hours.
How did I do this? Keep reading.
Maximum Hour Limit
I did this by imposing a 9-hour child care limit. 9 hours is what is included in the base tuition. I figured a working parent usually would work an eight-hour day. Then, to allow for the commute, I added 30 minutes to either end of that day to arrive at nine hours. So no more side trips home to relax before picking up the little one (and then being late).
What happens if a parent goes beyond the 9 hours? Glad you asked. Keep reading.
If care goes beyond nine hours, well as you may have guessed I charge more $$. I call this EXTENDED DAY FEES and its something that I mention as part of the interview. In my contract, it states, “Extended Day Fee: $10.00 per hour, or any part thereof (if care extends over 9 hours)”.
Now I know this is a very uncomfortable thing for a provider, especially a new provider. But remember, even though you are taking care of little Johnny, you are also staring down Johnny Law! Hefty fines and all.
Actually, these fees are really in place to
discourage encourage parents to simply stick to those good ole’ contracted hours. If parents pick-up and drop-off when they say they would, no harm, no foul and no fees.
Believe me, if you begin by enforcing this policy along with added fees, you should only need to address the issue once or twice with a client. People don’t like fees. Hey, that’s great! I really don’t like slapping them on them.
You could begin by initially just mentioning when a parent arrives early or late. Let them know you are aware of it so that they are also aware of it. If they arrived early, I usually ask that the parent stays with their child until the correct drop-off time.
Hey! You want one more thing you can do to ensure families adhere to your set hours? I figured you would.
Remember, there is nothing wrong with simply reminding your clients every now and again about your policies. I routinely send out random reminders of contract terms, extended day fees, etc. I do this either in a simple text or email to all the parents.
“JUST A REMINDER: Early Arrivals: We staff our teachers based on the contract you have signed and maintaining mandated ratios. Early arrivals need to be preapproved and will carry an additional charge. Unscheduled early arrivals (more than 5 minutes) may result in your child being turned away until their scheduled time as we may not have enough staff on hand until your child’s regularly contracted arrival time. If we have enough staff and are able to take them, this will result in a substantial additional charge. An Early Drop-off fee of $5 for every 15 minutes (or any portion thereof) if you arrive before your scheduled drop-off time will be charged. Late Pick-ups: As a courtesy, we also ask parents to let us know if they are running late as well, as late arrivals can throw off our schedule just as much as early arrivals. A Late Pick-up fee of $5 for every 15 minutes (or any portion thereof) if you arrive after your scheduled pick-up time will be charged. Remember, the usual daily schedule is 9 hours of care (so if drop-off is 8 am, pick-up is no later than 5 pm. If you need to make any schedule change requests*, add someone to your child’s authorized pick-up, or just fill out a medication authorization, you can go to our www.childsplaykids.com, to FORMS to fill out a request. *Any schedule/enrollment changes require prior approval and two-weeks notice. Thanks in advance, Miss A”
Ok, that was not so simple. But it works!