A Reader's Question: P is for Parent Handbook
Hi (Tearri) Geeky Nanny! I operate a home daycare. I have only been doing this for 6 months. I am having trouble with getting the parents on board with some of the licensing rules, and a lot of my house rules too. Do you have any suggestions to help with this? I admit I don't have much of a backbone, all I have is our contract to go off on. I am not having late payment issues though!
Any advice you can offer will be appreciated. Thank you!
Dear Mrs. B,
You are not alone and in 2002 I was in the same situation as you. Parents mean well, but sometimes they have no idea that half the decisions that we make have already been decided by our State Licensing Agency. One of the reasons that I love being licensed is that I can pull out the Licensing Rule Book and explain to parents exactly why things are done the way that they are, and for a while this worked well. However, our State licensing rules do not govern our operation of hours, house rules, and really doesn't give us a discipline policy to implement (only tell us what we cannot do) .
With that being said a Parent Handbook is a must to have so that your families are very clear on how you operate your childcare business. A Parent Handbook will educate your families about the rules you have set that may exceed what the licensing rules are and to be fair to the families they should have something in writing regarding your specific rules, not just the Licensing Rule Book to reference.
A Parent Handbook should include the following topics, but not limited to;
Hours of Operation/Program Schedule
Meal Times/ Food Policy
Required Personal Belongings
Daily Program Schedule
Diapering/Potty Training Policy
Dress Code/Discipline Policy
Open Door Policy/Communication Policy
Once all the topics are outlined and you have written down what the rules are for your childcare business it will become clear to you how to verbally express these rules to your families when the time arises. By the end of my first year as a licensed childcare provider I had to stop hiding behind the Licensing Rule Book and stand up for the rules that I had for my home childcare that would make my life easier as a childcare provider, and in return allowed me to enjoy my life as a childcare provider so much more.
The photo above is Studio One's first page (an excerpt) in the Parent's Handbook following the Table of Contents.
Not only will a Parent Handbook share your childcare rules, it can also help cultivate the type of environment you are wanting to achieve in your childcare. Including your program philosophy, core values, and a bit more about you will help the families know if they are enrolling in the right childcare program for them, which will decrease any future problems you may have. Please keep in mind that you are free to add or change anything in your handbook and should give notice to the families when changes are made. Also, make sure parents have signed off that they have received your handbook for your records. I usually go over the Handbook with the parents, and this helps them to jog their memory about any specific questions they may have had but forgotten as we browse through the various topics.
Having a Parent Handbook will certainly help you to become confident in explaining your house and the licensing rules to the families who are enrolled in your childcare program. My handbook has evolved into what it is today due to experience, and professional development courses. Also, I don't want to leave you hanging after you have done your handbook and shared it with parents, but...... you will be asked the same thing over and over again about the same information in your handbook by the parents, don't become frustrated instead use this as an opportunity to practice, practice, practice and before long you will be addressing the rule breakers without hesitation.
I am glad to hear that your payment contract is going well for you and the parents are making the payments on time, because having a contract is a very important piece in operating a childcare. In order to have a childcare business that you enjoy you must have both a Parent Handbook and a Contract. Your Parent Handbook will detail how your day to day operations are done, and the Contract is agreeing on things related to tuition. When we have both pieces a Contract and a Parent Handbook we are building our childcare business on a solid foundation.
I hope all of this helps, and Good Luck to you on your Childcare Entrepreneurial journey!
Lots of love,
The Geeky Nanny