YOUR DAYCARE CONTRACT IS ONE OF THE BEST COMMUNICATION TOOLS YOU HAVE WITH PARENTS. MAKING CHANGES TO MAKE IT BETTER IS WELL WORTH THE EFFORT.
You know how I’m always preaching about how EVERY CHILDCARE PROVIDER NEEDS A CONTRACT? While that is absolutely true – I think I had a daycare contract from the very start. But I have to admit I have upgraded my contract over time. Yep, you guessed it, there were issues. I remember thinking, “I’ll never go through that again!”
So even though I feel that even the most basic contract will help a provider avoid quite a few common issues, here are 8 things I added to my childcare contract over the years.
“Yep! That’s going in the contract!” – What I added to my childcare contract over time
I think one of the first additions I made to my contract was to impose a 9-hour care limit. This policy was a direct result of parents dropping off early and picking up late. Sometimes kids would wind up in care for over 10 hours or more.
Parents were increasingly pushing the limits of my hours of operation. Many admitted to going home, or to the store, or even taking a nap before picking up their children. I was feeling overworked and burnt out. I had to figure out how to discourage this abuse of time (my viewpoint), but how?
So along came a new policy.
I made a revision. Here’s what I added to my childcare contract – I now state in the contract (and at the tour) that only 9 hours of care are covered in the basic tuition. If care exceeds 9 hours, an Extended Day Fee would apply. By the way, the extended day needs to be approved by me and noted in the contract.
This does not apply to a parent that is simply late picking up a lot of the time. That parent is charged a Late Fee that is considerably more expensive.
Now that my limit is clearly stated, I rarely have abusers.
Extended Day Fees vs. Late Fees
Extended Day Fees
While we are on the subject, let’s talk fees! Specifically, fees that are meant to deter certain behaviors.
So like I said, I have a limit on how many daily hours parents can use the childcare. Most don’t give me pushback on that (especially when they realize that it is longer than their own workday) and will schedule pickups within the time limit.
If a family does require that their child remains in the childcare longer than the 9 hours, I would have to agree to provide an Extended Day. Again, this is not just for a one-time or spontaneous occurrence. This needs to be an ongoing situation and the hours still need to be noted in the contract.
Late Fees are a whole different animal! These fees are specific to parents arriving late (or early for that matter) and are to hopefully discourage chronic late pick-ups.
Most providers take a hint from the larger daycare centers with this policy and charge Late Fees by the minute. Yes, I said the minute! Meaning for every minute a parent is late, there is some uncomfortable (dollar amount) fee imposed.
The point is, no one likes fees but certainly not one that is going up by the minute. If you have chronic late parents, get this fee going, and overnight you will see they will reform.
I would say I think having specific hours of use in your contract would be essential for trying to keep parents in line with drop-off times as well as pick-up times. This one like many other additions to my contract came from experience. Yep, one day everybody arrived early!
What’s the big deal?
Well since I wasn’t expecting anyone to arrive for another hour I had just mopped the floor and I had to sit all the kids in my living room until the floor dried.
Ok, my bad!
I should have mopped the night before, but the point is other than an annoying episode like this it is important to know who is arriving and/or departing when.
Most providers have mandatory ratios to maintain and could very easily be out of compliance if parents drop-off randomly. There might be a day when you need to run to the store. If you don’t know when to expect clients, you can’t run out for even 15 minutes.
Even though I do lock parents down to hours of care in the contract, understandably there are times when they need to come early or pick up late. That just happens, so I deal with it on a case-by-case basis, always keeping in mind their regular contracted hours. If necessary, I will OCCASIONALLY make a ONE-TIME exception, emphasis on the one-time.
Ok, to be honest, I think most providers indicate in their contract which holidays they observe. If you don’t, you need to!
Simply saying that you will be closed on holidays is not enough information for your clients. Some holidays are obvious (Thanksgiving) and some are not (Columbus Day). This is also a good idea if you plan to extend specific holidays like Christmas Eve & Christmas Day.
If you are not specific, believe me, parents will show up on Christmas Eve, get all their shopping was done and they won’t even pick up early (true story).
I have to say, even though I list in the contract which holidays my business observes, I have found it helpful to go a little bit further. Annually I create a Holiday Calendar refrigerator magnet that I hand out at the beginning of the year with not only the holidays listed but also the specific dates that they fall on for that calendar year.
I know! added to my contract
It is a little overkill, but I got tired of parents knocking on the door on Columbus Day. This way I am sure they have ample notice.
Having a CLEAR vacation policy is an absolute must! Not only with regards to your vacation but also your clients as well. Simply stating that parents are allowed to take two weeks’ vacation is too vague.
I once had a family that seemed to take vacations every other month. I decided that there needed to be a limit on how many vacation days are allowed annually and what is expected with regard to tuition during that vacation period. Here’s what I added to my childcare contract –
Family Vacation Policy
- How much notice would you expect before a vacation? How is that notice given?
- Are parents to pay you before or after the vacation?
- Will the full tuition payment or only partial tuition be due?
- What will happen if payment is not made?
Think about these questions and give your clients a full understanding of this policy.
Now, what about you?
- How much notice will you give regarding your vacation plans?
- How long do you expect to be gone?
- Is this a paid vacation or will this period be tuition-free?
- Will you assist in finding alternate care for your clients?
Be as thorough as you can be and if you need to update this policy annually don’t be afraid to do that.
I talk more about the need for an Enrollment Deposit here, but one thing I had to adjust in my contract was that the enrollment deposit amount would remain consistent no matter if tuition increased or decreased during the course of enrollment.
This was necessary because of a family requesting that I refund the difference of the deposit in relation to the tuition they were paying just prior to withdrawal.
Nice try, but not so fast! added to my contract
I added this sentence to my contract “Child’s last two weeks in care will remain the amount that is in reserve at the time of enrollment whether or not the enrollment status has or will be changed.”
Payment Procedure Form
Something that I changed was not really an addition to my contract, but rather an addendum that I added to it. Realizing that many parents didn’t really thoroughly read the Parent-Provider contract when they enrolled, I decided to pull out what I felt was a very important policy – the Payment Procedure.
Parents need to know how and when payment is expected when they enroll. So I created a separate sheet in the form of an addendum that basically reiterated the policy stated in the contract itself. I noted that I realized the tuition payment was most probably a new experience for many newly enrolled families. This form breaks it all down in detail.
There is an expanded explanation of what tuition is expected during holidays and vacation periods. Parents need to sign and date this form separately from the overall contract.
Tuition in Advance
I saved the BEST for last. Full disclosure, I have to say it had been suggested to me that I require payment of tuition IN ADVANCE of the coming week before. But a few years ago when I had the opportunity to have my contract reviewed by a legal service that was one of the things that I was again encouraged to change about my contract.
Prior to that, I did have problems with parents not submitting payments on the Monday due day and I even had one family who routinely would wait until the absolute cut-off day (Wednesday) before submitting tuition every week. I said every week!
The legal advisor encouraged me to change when the tuition payments were due. She suggested that I move it to the Friday prior to the coming week, stating that most people are paid on Friday so making payment on that day made practical sense.
I made the change completely expecting push-back from my clients. To my surprise, no one seemed to blink.
It is so nice to get the payments on time every week and avoid those repeated trips to the bank.
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What I Added to My Childcare Contract
These are some of the things I added to my childcare contract over time. Sometimes things are not perfect at the start. That’s ok. You can change it. Improve it. Even if it takes a while. Making any changes you feel are necessary to help you run your business more efficiently is well worth the effort.