Who Terminated the Family Child Care Contract?

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Who owes money in this situation: the family child care provider or the parent?

On Friday a provider gives a two-week notice to a parent. The parent decides not to bring her child back on Monday. The provider wants the parent to pay for the two weeks, but the parent says she should only have to pay if a parent gives a two-week notice.

Who is right? It depends on what the contract says.

In this case, the contract states: “Withdrawal/Change in Schedule Notice – If you are withdrawing your child from care a 2 week written notice is requested. Schedule changes are also due in writing. We will try to accommodate requests, needs and wants. Should I need to terminate a childcare contract for sufficient reason, I will give reasonable notice based on individual circumstances.”

First, notice that the parent is “requested” (not required) to give a two week notice. This is not helpful, in that the parent can argue that a request is not enforceable. Next, the contract doesn’t say what the consequence is if the parent doesn’t give a two week notice.

This is a problem. All providers should make it explicit that parents must pay even if they don’t bring their child during the notice period. Without a consequence, it will be hard to enforce the contract. So, use this language: “Parent must pay for the two-week notice even if they do not bring their child to care during the notice period.”

The parent did break the contract by not bringing her child to care on Monday and failing to give a two-week notice as required under the contract. So, in my opinion, the parent owes the provider for two weeks of care.

Finally, the contract language about the provider terminating the contract is weak. What is a sufficient reason? A parent can always argue that there wasn’t sufficient reason for the provider to terminate. So, in my opinion, the contract should say, “Provider may terminate at will.” This language gives the  provider maximum flexibility in ending her agreement.

Two Key Rules

Disputes over ending a contract between parents and providers are common. In my workshops usually over a third of providers have had parents leave owing them money.

This should not happen.

The only way to guarantee that a parent won’t leave owing you money is to require parents to follow these two rules:

One: Parents must pay you at least a week in advance

Two: Parents must pay the last two weeks in advance

If parents can’t afford this, they can pay you a little extra each week. Both of these rules are reasonable.

See my article: “Don’t Let Parents Leave Owing You Money.”

Tom Copeland – www.tomcopelandblog.com

Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/jantruter/


Categories: Contracts & Policies

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