Does it Matter What Parents Do While Their Children Are In Your Care?

Do any of these situations bother you?

  • One day a parent tells you she gets off work at noon that day, but doesn’t pick up her child until 6pm.
  • A parent enrolls in your program and brings her child during your regular hours of 7am-6pm. Later you find out that the parent often has time during the day to play golf, go to the gym and run errands.
  • A parent tells you she probably won’t need care on Friday on a regular basis, but would like to be able to bring her child anytime she wants that day.

In all of these situations the parent could care for their child, but they prefer that you do.

Most providers recognize that parents may occasionally want some time alone or want to do an activity without their children. It’s when this becomes a regular habit that some providers protest.

One provider told me her philosophy was that she won’t provide child care if either parent is able to care for their child. She asks parents when they get off work and sets their pick-up time based on how long it takes them to get from work to her home.

I’ve talked with other providers who have told me they don’t care what the parents are doing while their child is in their care. As long as the parent is paying for their services, they feel that it’s none of their business what the parent does with their time.

There is no right answer to these situations. It’s up to you to decide what you want to do. If it does bother you, there are things you can do about it.

  • You could establish specific drop off and pick up time for each child based on the parent’s work/school schedule.
  • You could set your weekly rate based on a specific number of hours (say 50) and charge more when parents exceed this time.
  • You could insist that parents only bring children when they are not able to care for their child and terminate your contract if they violate this rule.

 As with any other aspect of caring for children, if something bothers you, do something about it! Don’t let the stress of a situation prevent you from taking action.

You can change your policies and set new limits to parents at any time. If it involves changing your contract (increasing or decreasing hours or changing your fees), then you’ll need to put the change in writing and have the parent sign your new agreement.

It may be difficult to know exactly when parents need child care. Their situations may change or they may not feel comfortable telling you the truth, if their rates could go up depending on how they answer your questions.

In the end, you need to do what you feel is best for you, your business and your family. Setting stricter rules may make your program less attractive to some parents. But, this should not cause you to change your position if you feel strongly about it.

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Tom Copeland

I've been the nation's leading trainer, author, and advocate on the business of family child care since 1981. I'm a licensed attorney and have presented hundreds of business workshops for family child care providers across the country. I answer thousands of calls and emails each year to help providers, tax professionals and trainers understand complex business and tax issues. Call me at 651-280-5991. Email me at Visit me on Facebook. From 1981 to 2009 I worked at Resources for Child Caring in Minnesota (now called Think Small), where I was director of Redleaf National Institute for 15 years. I've written nine books on the business of family child care published by Redleaf Press, a division of Resources for Child Caring. I was on the board of directors of First Children's Finance, a non-profit organization providing low interest loans and consulting and technical assistance to help family child care providers suceed as a business. They operate in Minnesota, Iowa, Michigan, North and South Dakota, Kansas, Missouri, and Texas. Here are some YouTube videos of me talking about my work with this organization and the business of family child care. I graduated from Macalester College (BA) in 1972 and from William Mitchell College of Law (JD) in 1980. I live in St. Paul, Minnesota with my wife Diane and two cats, Duke and Ella.