Does it Matter What Parents Do While You Care for Their Children?


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.

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.

How do you handle these situations?

Tom Copeland –

This article previously appeared at

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Contracts & Policies bookFor more information about contract issues, see my book Family Child Care Contracts & Policies.

Categories: Contracts & Policies

3 replies

  1. I really have issue with the statement that you “can” make your policy saying that parents must pick up children according to their work schedule. It really is putting “your” values on to others and being judgmental. Also, your fee may be based on hours or days. Your fee policy should not be set according to your values, but on what is good for your business. You are providing a service and you can offer parents information on what is developmentally appropriate, but not push your values on them.
    I had a friend who plowed snow the first year he charge by the season. It snowed a lot and he was plowing driveways a lot. His customers really got their money’s worth. He however lost $ due to gas and time. The next year he charged per time. It barely snowed and he lost $ again and again his customers felt good about his service. Although we do deal with human beings not snow we are providing a service and childcare is a business. Sometimes we have to look it that way. I was director at a center where they charged per week not per hour. In the long run it was to our benefit financially because many parents took off here and there and staff was sent home early due to low numbers. We did, however have one family that left their child in care EVERY Friday evening because it was paid for and we served supper. The mother, father and sibling usually went out to eat and many staff saw them. Although, I did not approve personally, I continually told my staff that we each have our own values and priorities and to talk about it was disrespectful. We need to separate our values from our business practices. I know that there were times I wished I could go grocery shopping just once without my children, or go out to eat supper with a friend knowing my child was well taken care of. TO ME that is not bad parenting or terrible values. Telling child care centers it is okay to set up policies that push their values on their clients is not appropriate

  2. When parents have work holidays or days off, I tell them to go enjoy their day to themselves but if they can pick up a bit early. I hate it when they have the day off and their child is the last one there by half an hour or more.

  3. I didn’t judge (much) when parents brought their children on a day off or something, I just didn’t like when they didn’t tell me where they’d be that day. As long as they were honest about telling me how I could reach them in case of emergency or illness, I left it alone. They were paying tuition for enrollment space in my program, not my judgement on how they spent their time.

    I agree that providers should think through their own feelings on this matter, write their contracts & policies to match, clearly communicate to parents and let the parents decide on the issue of compatibility with their own feelings. Providers need to listen carefully during the interview to make sure the parents understand and plan to go along or make a different choice of care provider to avoid that awfully uncomfortable situation of enrolling a child only to realize weeks later that the parents weren’t quite as compatible as we thought during the interview.

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