How to Establish a Parent Pick-Up Policy When a Child Becomes Ill

Four-year-old Maria wakes up from her afternoon nap sweating.  You take her temperature and discover that she has a fever.  You call Maria’s mother to tell her to come pick up her child right away, but she doesn't answer her phone.

What should a family child care provider do in this situation?

Since it’s not uncommon for children to become ill during the day, it’s wise to establish a policy ahead of time with parents on how this situation will be handled. Some states require child care providers to establish such a policy.

Policy  Contents

Your policy should contain the following:

  • The circumstances under which you will ask the parent to pick up her child
  • How fast you expect parents to return your calls
  • How soon you expect parents to arrive at your home to pick up their child
  • The procedure you will follow in identifying who will pick up the child if the parent cannot pick up quickly enough
  • What will be done if no one is available to pick up the child

Sample Policy

Here’s a sample policy you might want to consider:

Parent Pick-Up Policy When Child Becomes Ill

Parents will be asked to pick up their child in the middle of the day if their child becomes ill. An illness includes, but is not limited to: a fever of 100 degrees or higher, a skin rash, vomiting, parasitic infestation (lice, scabies, etc.), pink eye, major discharge from the eyes or ears, any other communicable or contagious disease. If the child needs immediate medical attention provider will contact 911 and follow their advice. Provider will then immediately contact the parent.

If provider cannot reach the parent by phone, provider will leave a message at all the phone numbers on file. Provider will also leave an email/text message. Parent will be expected to return calls within 10-15 minutes.

After the parent receives notification from the provider, the parent will be expected to pick-up their child within 15 minutes, plus travel time. Travel time is ______ minutes.

If the parent does not return calls or emails within 15 minutes, provider will contact other persons listed in the child’s files who are authorized to pick up the child in an emergency. If no one on the emergency list is available to pick up the child, provider may call child protection or may continue to care for the child until the regular pick up time.

Failure of the parent to follow this policy may lead to the termination of the contract.

Dealing with Parents

You should tell all parents that you must have immediate access to them by phone.  Otherwise, it’s not safe for their child. When you talk to a parent on the phone about their child’s illness, it’s a good idea to have documented the child’s symptoms and behavior so you can present a clear picture of the child’s condition. Parents may initially balk at the request that they pick up their child, but if you have a written policy the parent will have the opportunity to plan ahead and be ready to leave work right away.

If the parent refuses to pick up their child, calmly remind them of your policy that they agreed to upon enrollment. If the parent still refuses to pick up, tell the parent you will be contacting the other names on your authorized pick up list. You will need to decide whether or not to continue to provide care for a parent who won’t follow your policies.

Your policy was designed to protect the health of the child who becomes ill, the other children, and your program. Therefore, you need to carefully go over this policy with all parents to ensure that things run smoothly when a child does become ill.

If you don’t have a sick child pick-up policy, now is the time to create one.

For more information, see “What can I do if a parent refuses to pick-up a sick child?” [http://www.childproviderlaw.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/Vol1Iss1.pdf]


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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 tomcopeland@live.com. 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.