Questions and Answers on Contracts & Policies from an Iowa Webinar

“Is it a good idea to give out your rate information before interviewing with a prospective family?”

“What do you do if patent paid on last day and check is returned due to insufficient funds and refuses to answer any communication?”

“What is your recommendation (regarding liability) on children who walk to school or a bus stop from a provider’s home?”

These are some of the questions asked by family child care providers that I answered during a recent webinar “Coming to Terms: How to Effectively Use Contracts and Policies with Parents” sponsored by Child Care Resource and Referral of NW Iowa.


Q: Is it a good idea to give out your rate information before interviewing with a prospective family?

A: There is no right or wrong answer to this question. Most family child care providers do not share rate information over the phone. They want parents to see the quality of their care, so they can understand what they are paying for. Parents will pay more for high quality care that can only be seen during a visit to your home. Some providers do share their rates on the phone to screen out parents who could never afford their services. See my article, “Should You Share Your Rates over the Phone?”


Q: I signed on a family 3-4 months ago and at the time we did not talk about a holding fee. So, I contacted the mom via text message to set up an amount. It was my fault that I did not have a holding fee for infants as I have never had too.  Is the text message viewed as written agreement?

A: A written agreement is only enforceable when both parties sign it. So, sending a text message to the mother saying that you will be charging her a holding fee won’t be enforceable unless she responds by accepting your proposal. Charging a non-refundable holding fee is a good idea. Don’t apply it to the first or last weeks of care. Parents are paying for your promise to hold the spot and you are giving up the right to fill it during this time. See my article, “How to Handle Holding Fees.”


Q: How should we handle it if the parents are divorced and the dad is only allowed to pick up on Tuesdays and every other Friday and he shows up on a Wednesday?

A: If the mother has not approved of the father picking up on Wednesday, you should tell the father to leave or you will call the police. Either parent can give permission to the other parent to pick up on their days, but you want this in writing and with some advance notice. Do not physically try to prevent the father from taking the child. Don’t hesitate to call 911 if the father insists on taking the child.


Q: What is your recommendation on children who walk to school or a bus stop from a provider’s home? Regarding liability- Would you recommend just having that part of the contract and very detailed?

A: You should follow these steps. 1) Ask your licensor if it is safe for the child to do this. You are a mandated reporter of child neglect and you don’t want to violate this law. 2) Get written permission from each parent that spells out that the child will be alone when walking to school or waiting at the bus stop. 3) Get business liability insurance that will protect you if a parent sues you if the child is injured. 4) If you don’t feel comfortable, don’t agree to it.


Q: What do you do if patent paid on last day and check is returned due to insufficient funds and refuses to answer any communication?

A: To enforce your contract you should send the parent a letter that says how much she owes you, a deadline for when you expect payment, and a threat to take her to small claims court if she doesn’t pay up. Having a copy of the bounced check should make it very easy to win your case in court. To avoid this problem, require parents to pay at least a week in advance and the last two weeks in advance. If a parent can’t pay this all at once, set up a payment plan where the parent pays an extra $5-$25 per week to catch up.


Q: If my policies state a two-week written notice is expected at termination of child care and if no notice is given, will I be able to collect for that 2 weeks if I did not provide the care?

A: If you refuse to provide care, you cannot expect the parent to pay for it. If the parent has paid you in advance and you terminate care, you should refund money for any days that you won’t provide care. If the parent leaves and doesn’t give you a two-week notice under your contract, and doesn’t come for those two weeks, and you were ready to care for the child, you should be able to win in court.


Q: What about this-a parent comes to pick up their child and the child runs out the door to outside to get into the vehicle and gets hurt. Who is responsible? Mind you they have been told not to do this a number of times.

A: You are responsible for any injuries suffered by a parent or child while on your property. Therefore, you want to insist that the parent follow your safety rules during drop off and pick up times. If the parent refuses to cooperate then you should consider terminating your contract.


I conduct monthly webinars through the National Association for Family Child Care. See my schedule here. I also conduct webinars for local organizations such as Child Care Resource and Referral of NW Iowa. Here are the details for sponsoring a webinar by me for your organization.

Tom Copeland –

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For more information, see my book Family Child Care Contracts and Policies.



Categories: Contracts & Policies

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