No family child care provider wants to get in trouble with their child care licensor. Failure to follow licensing rules can result in losing your license.
But, when a family child care licensor in Minnesota wanted her providers to sign a new Agreement form, one provider had concerns about what she was being asked to sign.
The Agreement contained mostly general rules about reporting injuries, not illegally discriminating, and so on. These were restatements of the existing state family child care licensing rules.
However, the last paragraph stated, “We will treat the children placed in our care as members of our family. We will cooperate with the children’s own families in maintaining a good relationship and will keep them aware of the children’s progress and development.”
Nowhere in the state’s licensing rules does such language appear. This language is troubling on many levels. Family child care providers are running a business, they are not expanding the size of their family. All the love and care that providers give the children and their parents is not the same as being responsible for raising their own children.
One provider was bothered by this paragraph and shared it with me. She said, “I provide loving quality care to all of the children that come to me, but I don’t treat them just like my own children. For example, my own children get beds in their own rooms to nap in while the others rest in pack and plays or on a mat on the floor. Also, if I had to treat them like my own family I would never be able to terminate care for them.
“The form also had a line about agreeing to cooperate with parents. I thought that could be interpreted many ways. I thought parents could potentially say I wasn’t cooperating with them if I refused to change my policies for them or if I terminated care for them for some reason.”
Her concerns are legitimate. I told her to ask her licensor where in the law it says she must sign such an Agreement and what would happen if she refused to sign it.
The ensuing conversation with her licensor was uncomfortable. The licensor said that no one else had raised concerns about the Agreement and that if she wouldn’t sign the statement saying she would cooperate with parents then she shouldn’t be doing child care!
In the end, the licensor said that nothing would happen to her if she refused to sign it or if she crossed out this last paragraph. The provider crossed it out and then signed it.
Shortly afterwards when the licensor visited the provider for her relicensing visit, she told the provider that after talking with her supervisor, licensing had decided to do away with the form. They didn’t explain why they changed their position.
The provider wrote back to me:
“When Providers ‘push back’ it sounds rather like we are being uncooperative. I think of it more as standing up for myself (and in this case protecting myself). It is very sad that providers are scared to ask questions and that they fear licensors.
I feel I now have a strained relationship with my licensor because of this. I tried to be polite and respectful when asking about this, but she obviously didn’t like being questioned. Still, it’s a win. I feel I made a difference. I brought about a positive change for providers in my county.”
I congratulate this provider for standing up for herself! It’s always appropriate to ask questions of your licensor when you have concerns about what you are being told to do. It’s unfortunate that her licensor wasn’t more professional in how she handled this.
Tom Copeland – www.tomcopelandblog.com
Image credit: Image credit: internetcafedevotions.com
For more details on how to handle conflicts with licensors and parents, see my book Family Child Care Contracts & Policies.