Terminating a contract with parents can be difficult. Here my answers to questions I recently received about contract termination.
Q: If a parent leaves my program because she is mad that another child scratched her child, can I sue them for the monies due?
A: Yes. You can always sue. Will you win in court? Maybe. If the child is seriously injured, the parent may be able to convince the judge that you were at fault and you may lose. You would argue that the parent still owes you for the care you provided.
If a parent leaves under these circumstances, contact your child care licensor. You may be required to report such an injury. But, you also want to tell your licensor that the parent has left owing you money. This will help you if the parent later makes a complaint unrelated to this incident. It’s always best to keep your licensor informed of conflicts with parents so they hear about them from you first.
Q: Do you need a written termination notice?
A: It’s not a requirement. I think it’s a good idea so there is no misunderstanding. Your termination notice be short. See my previous article for an example of such notice.
Q: I am concerned that if I terminate a parent because they are a pain in the neck, they will complain to licensing and make something up. Then I can get into trouble with licensing. Any advice? What if they make up a lie about why they were terminated?
A: This can and does happen. Here’s how to protect yourself. Keep your own records of any conflicts with parents. Keep your licensor informed of these conflicts. You are not asking your licensor to solve the problem for you. You want to go on notice that this parent is disruptive or threatening or whatever else. If your licensor gives advice, make a note of it. Contact your licensor immediately after terminating the parent and bring her up to date. Doing this will make it less likely the licensor will believe the parent who calls later to make an unfounded complaint against you. This is a situation where family child care providers are vulnerable. Licensors must investigate any serious complaint. But, if the licensor knows the history with the parent you are in a much better position.
Q: Should I bring up past documented issues with parents during the termination process?
A: Maybe. Ideally, there was a process leading up to the termination of a parent. You should be discussing the issues as they came up and tell the parent, “If we can’t resolve this problem it will lead to your termination.” I also think it’s a good idea to give parents a final chance: “If this happens again, I will have to terminate our contract.” In other words, you should be communicating all along that the consequence of a parent not following your rule is termination. You don’t want the termination to be a surprise. When you have been communicating all along, then I don’t think it is wise to say anything more when you do terminate. This is because it will only bring up bad feelings and the parent may want to argue with you. Sometimes it may not be possible to terminate after a process of trying to resolve a problem. For example, the parent threatens you with violence. In this case immediate termination is warranted.
Q: When parents leave and you ask them to fill out a withdrawal form, should you ask them why they are leaving?
A: I think this is a good idea. You want to know as much as possible about parent preferences and factors that cause them to choose one child care program over another. Some reasons you can’t do anything about (“We’re moving.”), while other reasons may cause you to make some changes (“We need a program with more learning activities.”).
These questions were asked of me during a recent webinar I did sponsored by the Early Childhood Investigations Webinars.
Tom Copeland – www.tomcopelandblog.com
Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/stevensnodgrass/
Categories: Contracts & Policies