Today I want to help you deal with the “late’s”. Who is that? You know, the parents that pick up late, late payers and even a late employee. Late people can throw a monkey wrench in the day-to-day operations of a family child care provider. So let’s develop some strategies of how to handle the late’s so no wrenches need to get thrown.
Dealing with Late People
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Last updated: 1/30/17
PARENTS PICKING UP LATE
One of the best ways to avoid having parents that pick up later than their scheduled pick up time is to stipulate drop-off and pick-up times right in your contract. Years ago I remember a parent telling me that it was her habit to go home after work, take a shower and even make a run to the grocery store, all before coming to pick up her 1-year-old. Of course, she was at least an hour later than the time she had told me she would be picking up. Over the years I’ve had many other parents who would pick up after my operating hours.
Ok, time to get tough!
At that point, I decided that I would make a maximum time stipulation in my contract. I revised my contract to specifically state that the base tuition covered a maximum of 9 hours of care. So from the contracted drop-off time (I’ll get into that in a moment), pick-up time was to be 9 hours later. This is something that I am sure to bring up when the parents are considering enrolling. I even will suggest to them that if they are a two parent family, they might consider one parent dropping off and the other picking up just so they can maintain the 9-hour rule.
Many parents don’t stop to consider how long their children are really in child care. The usual is 9-10 hours a day and for some, that means more than 50 hours a week in child care. Most providers already start early in the morning and close later than most parents work hours. Providers do this to accommodate parent work schedules. So asking providers to extend their day longer, needs to be an agreed to kinda thing. I don’t know about you, but I need my work day to be over near my stated operating hours.
Contract Drop-off and Pick-up Times
Whatever your policy will be, it is also a good idea to place the expected drop-off and pick-up times right in your contract. Parents tend to want to treat these times rather casually. So putting specific times in the contract itself so that its clear from the start is a really good idea. When addressing this policy, it carries more weight when we state “contracted times” rather than saying something like “your agreed to time” or relying on a verbal understanding. By the way, in my experience dropping off too late can be just as disruptive as picking up too late. I have set a cut-off time for drop-offs too.
Another suggestion is to require parents to have a backup plan (person). Just in case work runs late or for the occasional accident on the highway causing crazy traffic on a Friday night. In most of our paperwork we require Emergency contacts, so advise parents that you intend to use a contact person if they are an hour late for pickup. I also make it a habit of calling or text whenever I notice that parents are even a half-hour late.
You might feel that enforcing strict drop-off and pick-up times seems a little unnecessary. That it isn’t showing any flexibility toward your clients. I would challenge that notion by saying that most working people have set work hours. Parents are expected to arrive and leave at certain times. Why should your job be any different? Shouldn’t you know when your work day will be over? I think so!
THE LATE PAYERS
Ok, I know I have written about this before and you might be wondering why I concentrate so many posts on financial matters. Well believe me when I started I could have never guessed how many times I would have to address payment issues with parents. It has run the gamut! From the “I forgot” every week, my bank card got stolen, to I ran out of checks, and on and on.
Imposing Late Fees
One of the ways I have brought this under control was to enforce the dreaded LATE FEES. I get into this more here, but really it’s the enforcement that needed to change here. Sometimes we will think we are extending a courtesy to a parent, but actually, we are violating our own policies and letting them know that in fact the policy is meaningless. This, in turn, sets a bad precedent and clients will continue to violate the policy.
Why should parents respect your policies if you are the biggest violator?
What usually happens is that if you enforce your LATE FEE policy even just once, you usually will not have to address the issue again. If you do, you might consider releasing the client.
Another method for getting payments submitted on time might be to offer multiple methods of payment. Aside from checks and cash payment consider accepting credit cards or auto-payments. Check out this video to see if this might work for your business.
A LATE EMPLOYEE
I once had an assistant that was late just about every day. She did this for the better part of the seven years that she worked for me. I was way too passive about it and it wound up being a bad habit.
I have to say that this was partially my fault. This was not doing this young woman any favors by letting her think that this was an acceptable work ethic. Finally, I had to address it when she was hours late one morning. I was overwhelmed, all by myself with babies and toddlers everywhere. I wound up exploding! Anyway, I should not have let it get that far.
Beyond that, for most providers, we are mandated to maintain a certain adult-to-child ratio. Having an undependable assistant can actually cause you to be in violation of state regulations and result in you being fined.
Get It Right From The Start
Once again, this is a situation where you need to stipulate what you expect from your employee/assistant right up front. Just like it’s not acceptable for parents to drop-off and pick-up at random times, neither is it acceptable for your assistant. If you can, it would be best to have a policy in place that you can advise your assistant about when they are interviewing.
Remember, if you have an assistant it is probably to help you with a larger enrollment and to maintain mandated ratios. So your assistant’s reliable attendance very important. At the very least, impress upon an applicant that you are a stickler for punctuality and expect them to be on time every day. Excessive tardiness and absenteeism (be sure to define that) could likely result in being let go.