Are Your Policies Crystal Clear?
We’ve all heard the saying, “Give them an inch and they’ll take a mile.” Does this happen to sound like any of the parents/caregivers in your program? Do you have parents/caregivers that ask if it would be OK if they picked up their child a “few minutes late” and those few minutes turned into an hour? Or what about the parent/caregiver that says, “I promise to drop the check off tomorrow” only for “tomorrow” to turn into two or three days later? Unfortunately, for many FCC professionals, scenarios like these are all too common and create very stressful situations for everyone involved.
So the question then becomes, “How do I keep my parents/caregivers happy while enforcing my policies at the same time?” The answer is simple…spell out each and every policy in a parent/caregiver handbook so that everyone knows “the deal.” When policies are in writing, there is no risk of misinterpretation or misunderstanding. Here is a list of topics you may want to address in your parent handbook. This is not an all- inclusive list. Instead, it is a starting point. Plus, even if you have a parent handbook in place, it is always a good idea to review it periodically to keep it up to date and current. Does your parent/caregiver handbook include these topics?
- Arrival and Departure (times/procedures)
- Illness (including procedures for pick up during the day if illness occurs)
- Communication (email/text/phone/in person)
- Meals and Snacks (including procedure for handling food allergies)
- Parent Involvement (opportunities & expectations)
- Daily Activities/Schedule
- Parent/Non-Parent Visit (custody issues)
- Calls/Emails/Text Messages (how they will be handled)
- Disaster Preparedness Procedures
- Parent/Caregiver Conferences (including when/how often)
- Pets (if you have them)
- Enrollment/Withdrawal Procedures and Required Paperwork
- Reporting Suspected Child Abuse/Neglect
- Fees (including late fees and fees for care outside of normal business hours)
- Field Trips
- Toys/Items from Home
- Holiday Schedule
- Damages (accidental/intentional)
- Transition to School (KG)
So, when a parent calls you and says, “I am stuck in traffic and I’m going to be a few minutes late,” what do you do? Consult your parent handbook and politely restate the policy. While you want to empathize with the parent, you do not want to “bend” on your policies because if you do, that parent/caregiver (and probably others) will expect you to “bend the rules” each time this happens. Of course, if an true emergency comes up…the judgment call on how to handle it will be up to you. But for the day-to-day running of your business, having a detailed parent/caregiver handbook in place will reduce your stress and keep everyone on the same page.