Creating a Transportation Policy

Here is a transcript for my podcast, “Creating a Transportation Policy.”

Welcome! You are listening to Tom Copeland’s Taking Care of Business. I’m Tom Copeland, and I’ve been a trainer, author and advocate for the business of child care for over 30 years.

This show is about the business side of child care and is for family child care providers and those who work in child care centers.

Today I’m going to talk about Creating a Transportation Policy: What You Should Do When a Parent Shows up Drunk or Without a Car Seat

One day a parent is picking up her child from your family child care home or child care center when you notice one of the following:

* The parent smells of alcohol

* The parent does not have a car seat for her toddler

* The parent is barely awake, or is acting erratically

You face two potential risks in these situations. First, if the child is injured in a car accident on the way home, you could lose your license. This is because child care providers are mandated reporters of child neglect, and the child in these situations is at risk. (If you are not certain that you would be required to report this, contact your state’s office of child protection.) If you are a director of a child care center you need to make sure your staff have adequate training and know how to respond to situations where a child might be at risk at pickup time.

In addition, if the child is injured the parent could sue you money for failing to take steps to keep the child safe. Yes, it could happen and if it did the parent would likely win some money from you or your business.

Believe it or not, a child care provider once called me and said, “Last night a mother came to pick up her child and said to me, ‘I am drunk’” Fortunately, this provider reported this to her licensor and avoided trouble.

Are you liable if you don’t smell alcohol or don’t know the child is not being transported in a car seat? No! The parent may be legally drunk, but if you don’t reasonably suspect he has been drinking you are not in trouble. You are not required to give parents a Breathalyzer test or require them to walk in a straight line before allowing them to take their child. However, you should let parents know that you will act if you believe their child is at risk, even if you can’t prove it.

There are also some additional rules you should follow when dealing with car seats. Don’t help the parent put the car seat in her car, or help buckle a child into a car seat. Whenever you touch the car seat you are increasing the risk of a lawsuit. Why? Because if you didn’t properly install the car seat or properly buckle the child in, and the child is injured as a result of your actions, you face a bigger lawsuit for damages. Don’t give the parent your car seat, as it might be defective.

To protect yourself against all of these risks, you should adopt a transportation policy that will help keep children safe. Your policy should say that your primary responsibility is to keep children safe and that if in your opinion, or the opinion of your staff, a child cannot be transported safely, you will take the following steps:

You will ask for the names and phone numbers of people who can pick up the child in an emergency.

You will call a cab (the parent will pay for the cab)

If the parent doesn’t have a car seat you will tell the parent to go home and get their car seat and then return.

You can also discuss other options with the parent. In the end, if the parent refuses to cooperate, you should call 911. Failure to follow such a policy creates a risk for the child and your program.

If the parent demands her child, do not refuse to give up her up. Don’t lock the child in a back room. Failure to give the child to the parent could expose you to a charge of kidnapping!

Don’t do what a provider in Maryland once told me. She said she kept a baseball bat inside her front door in case parents refused to cooperate with her. No! This is not a good idea as it obviously creates additional risks of injuries and lawsuits.

Try to talk the parent into following your policy. Say to the parent – “Remember, parent we talked about this, please let me call someone else to pick up your child. If the parent won’t listen, say that you will call the police if they leave with their child.

Use your transportation policy to communicate with parents upon enrollment, so these situations do not arise. If they do, follow your policy. If the parent takes the child, don’t hesitate to call 911 and report the license plate number.

Taking these steps will help keep children safe and protect your business.

For more information about transportation policies and all other aspects of the business of child care, visit my blog at There I’ve posted hundreds of articles and other resources to help you succeed as a business.

Thanks for listening. This is Tom Copeland hoping you will listen in for my next broadcast at the Child Care Bar and Grill.

Tom Copeland –

Categories: Contracts & Policies

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