Are Family Child Care Providers Too Nice?


This week a family child care provider in Minnesota told me the following story:

She has been doing child care for fourteen years and has taken two vacations during that time. Her contract allows for ten paid sick days a year and up to five paid personal days. The few sick days she has taken over the years were when her own child was born and when her husband and her child had surgery.

She took a sick day this past summer to attend the funeral of a parent. She had cared for his child for eight years. This month she plans to take her last personal paid day to take her senior to attend a college tour. All the parents are fine with this except one.

This one parent objects because she thought the provider had taken her last personal day to attend the funeral. She doesn’t want to pay the $84 (the cost of care for one day for her three children) for the upcoming college tour.

I have heard similar stories from child care providers over the years. Child care providers work long hours and take very few, if any, paid vacations, holidays or personal days. Usually the parents of the children in their care are understanding and don’t begrudge it when their provider does takes some time off.

But, there are some parents who put up a fight: “You can’t take a sick day for a funeral because you aren’t sick,” “I’m unhappy because now I have to pay twice for this day,” “Why should I have to pay for days my child is not in your care?” and so on.

Clearly there are some parents who struggle financially and have a hard time paying for their child care provider’s time off.

But most parents get many more paid vacations, sick days, holidays, and other employee benefits than most child care providers do. In the above story the complaining parent has taken two vacations so far this year and now wants to pinch pennies.

My Advice

I responded to the Minnesota child care provider by telling her that it was certainly reasonable to interpret her sick policy as applying to a funeral. Therefore, she still had one more personal day to use for the college tour. It’s also true that no matter how reasonable she is there may be some parents who will never see it the same way. Therefore, I proposed that she choose between three options:
1) Tell the parent you took the funeral as a sick day and they owe you the $84 for the personal day. If they refuse to pay, tell them you will end your contract with them.
2) Tell the parent you believe you are entitled to take the personal day but you understand that they may not see things the same way. Negotiate with them. Are they willing to pay half? What if they paid you $84 but spread it over 3 months?
3) Even though your position is reasonable, don’t bother trying to convince the parent that they should pay you. Let it go and don’t let it bother you. Life is too short to try to convince the parent you are being reasonable.
In the end the child care provider choose option #2. She is trying to negotiate with the parent and will tell the parent that if she won’t agree to some compromise that perhaps she needs to look for another provider who would better suit her needs.
In the vast majority of situations family child care providers and parents get along wonderfully. In a few instances some parents (and some providers) push for every possible advantage. When providers give in to these parents are they being too nice? Probably.

It’s okay to choose option #3 above to resolve your conflict with a parent. Providers bend their rules all the time. But, if you want to stand up to a parent, then go for it. There is no shame in acting on what you believe is reasonable.

Tom Copeland –

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Contracts & Policies bookFor more information about what to put in your contract and policies and how to enforce them, see my book Family Child Care Contracts and Policies.



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9 replies

  1. I do not differentiate between vacation and sick days. My contract states 15 paid days off per year and 3 bereavement days. This way, the parents cannot split hairs. Since making the switch, I have not had any issues. To prevent the issue stated above that the provider was accused of “using” her last day already, I keep a calendar of all my days off for the entire year so if a parent questions it, I have “proof.”

  2. I call my sick days “professional/sick/personal days.” This covers pretty much anything. And I also take some paid vacation and some unpaid vacation. Oddly enough, I think it helps to take MORE days off each year than rarely taking a day off. I remember a provider who’s client terminated b/c she took a couple of days off for her mother’s funeral! But this provider never took days off and this parent came to expect that she would always be available. It was probably a shock to the parent that she had to make other arrangements. My parents know they need to have a back up plan and I remind them of this by taking some planned days off and some unplanned days off each year.

  3. i agree, it’s a tough time when trying to take time off or get a day to actually breath. i actually have the same problems often, and will usually negotiate as well, it’s a tough call, especially looking at it in $$. there are other day cares that are available, and needing the income makes it a tough decision at times.

  4. I am wondering how do providers handle parent vacation time? If a provider has allotted 15 personal days for herself that are paid per year, is she paid when parents take vacation and children are not in care?

  5. I’m so glad you posted this Tom. I often find myself between a rock and a hard place when it comes to time off. Wether it is sick days, personal, vacation, or holidays.
    I maybe take 1-2 sick days per year, other days when I am sick like a dog my husband stays home and helps me. That way no time off. I only take 2 days off in a row for vacation and holidays. When the economy was good no parent ever asked me if they still have to pay when I was closed. The last 4 years half my goup wants a discount if they are gone or if I am closed. In order to stay in business through these tough times I give them the discount or just don’t charge them when I am closed. I just eat the cost. The good news, I still have many of the same families for years! My husband used to own his own oil lube business and did work 7 days a week for years. He says at least I get weekends off and I still get some days off. He also says when you own your own business you work more than a regular job, that it just comes with the territory. I totally agree with him!

  6. One more thing to ad. Even though it is in my contract that I get upto two weeks off for vacations per year and a few sick days when it comes down to it. Parents don’t remember what is in the contract they signed and they don’t even know where they put the contract. Instead of enforcing my contract, and risk loosing families, I opt to just eat the cost and take my time.

  7. Kathy, My parents pay for every day whether they are here or not. The only time they don’t pay is one of my vacations which is unpaid. I have 1 week of paid vacations, at least 11 paid holidays and 8 paid sick/personal/professional days.

  8. Why don’t providers figure days off into the prices and then the parents are paying for vacation/sick days, but they don’t realize it necessarily.

  9. In my handbook I state a few times that “payment is based on contract not attendance”. For the late pick up policy I add “please do not ask me if you owe any late fees if you know that you are on fact late. It is embarrassing for you and me both to trivialize over the few extra dollars”
    I have seen a contact that offers a different payment plan that spreads the providers time off fees into the weekly rates or the normal lower rate with the provider fees due during contacted closures. Not a bad idea really.

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