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Tom Copeland
THE NATION’S LEADING EXPERT ON THE BUSINESS OF FAMILY CHILD CARE
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Tom Copeland 
Taking Care of Business

How to write a child care parent handbook

Your parent handbook will look different than another program’s handbook! Here are some ideas for what to include in your handy dandy informative packet of information that will help keep all of your clients on the same ‘page’.

A WELCOME PAGE

Most of your clients who are reading this for the first time are brand new to your program. Create an opening paragraph that welcomes new families and tell them how grateful you are and that you look forward to creating lifelong relationships with them.

This is also a great place to post your contact information such as your phone number, email address, website, etc.

FRONT COVER

Print your front cover in a bright and cheery color! (Or tie it in with the colors you use in your other marketing materials). Consider including the following elements on your cover page:

  • Business Name

  • Logo (or image of your choice)

  • Your Name

  • Address (or city/state)

  • Email Address

  • Phone Number

  • Website

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

I know, I know…how fancy are you? Perhaps save this task for last but give great consideration to creating a table of contents for your reader. It can save your client a lot of time if they need to reference your handbook to freshen up on your payment policy.

INTRODUCE YOURSELF

Include a section in which you tell your new clients about who you are! Include information you think others would love to know about: where you’re from, how long you’ve been in the field of early childhood education, your hobbies, pets, fun facts hardly anyone knows about you, etc. Also include information about your family.

YOUR TEACHING PHILOSOPHY

Be honest here. Share your WHY. Don’t say what you think your clients want to hear but rather share how you truly feel about early childhood experiences for kids and what you strive to do in your program. I loved reading through the following reasons why some teachers choose to teach for a living.

ORIENTATION INFORMATION FOR NEW FAMILIES

This paragraph should include information on what the family is expected to provide (should they label these things?), what you will provide for their child as well as any information on a trial period (if you offer one).

YOUR DAILY SCHEDULE

Share a timeline of daily events in this section. If you don’t like to be confined to a schedule when caring for and teaching young children, be sure to mention that your schedule is highly flexible to meet the needs of each child. Try to share a rough outline if possible as parents will appreciate knowing approximately when lunch is being served, how many times you go outside to play, etc.

DROP-OFF AND PICK-UP PROCEDURES

Drop-off and pick-up can be very challenging for all parties involved (the child, the parent and the provider). Use this space in your handbook to outline best practices to help parents understand the complexities–what makes drop-off or pick-up time go smoothly and what does not? Be sure to include the following details in this section:

  • Designated parking information for parents when they arrive at your home.

  • The entrance and exit locations for families.

  • Details on what a parent should do if their child will not be attending or will be late on a particular day.

  • Instructions on whether or not outside food or drink is permitted.

  • Direct them on whether or not they need to remove their shoes or where to put their child’s gear.

  • Help parents know if they are allowed to enter into the learning space or if you would prefer they say good-bye to their child at the door or the gate, etc.

  • Tell parents what time they should pick up their child and what to do if they are running late.

  • Outline the procedure if someone else is picking up their child.

 

MEAL TIME AND NUTRITION

Share information about the food you serve to their child. Be sure to include whether or not you are enrolled in the Food Program. This is a great place to include a rough outline of your meal schedule. Here are some notes I included in my nutrition section:

  • Please arrive by 8:00 a.m. to receive breakfast, and before 11:30 a.m. to receive lunch. Please feed your child the scheduled meal if he/she will be arriving after the times listed.

  • Water is offered throughout the day as we work to keep each other hydrated!

  • Most kids enjoy “treats” as much as I do! On occasion I serve special treats .

  • I strive to find healthier alternatives for the following foods: chicken nuggets, fish sticks, corn dogs, french fries, and pizza. These foods are rarely served in this program.

  • Most of the vegetables we serve are organic.

  • We practice routine hand washing before and after all meals.

  • Our lunch is served “Family Style”. This means the children pass around the components of our meal to one another and scoop their own helping.

  • I sit and eat with the children at the table as much as I am able to promote healthy eating habits.

 

CLOTHING AND SUPPLY INFORMATION

You may have already shared these details in your orientation information but it doesn’t hurt to repeat the information here. You could also highlight what kinds of footwear works best (velcro?) or remind parents not to send their child in their Sunday best as kids tend to get messy in your program.

You can write about the logistics of all of the child’s belongings. Will it be stored in your home? Will parents be required to carry it back and forth each day? These are all things you get to decide as a business owner!

 

COMMUNICATION

Outline ways in which you will be sharing information with parents about their child and how they should contact you if they have any questions or concerns.

If you write a monthly newsletter, talk about how and when it will delivered each month and what they can expect.

 

FINANCIAL INFORMATION

Here is where you can provide more information about your payment policy, whether or not you collect a deposit and if there are any other fees the parents should know about.

 

HOLIDAYS AND TIME OFF

Let your clients know about your vacation policy. For the most part, a parent handbook should include information that doesn’t change based on the calendar. Consider passing out a document each year that outlines your time off based on the current year.

You can, however, include information about your time off and if payment is required in your absence. Consider whether or not your clients will still be required to pay when THEY choose to take a day off or keep their child home due to illness.

 

SICK DAYS

Include information on what a family can expect to happen on a day that you, the provider is ill.

EXCLUSION POLICY DETAILS

Most providers include this information in their contract, however in your handbook you have some room to explain, in detail, the ins and outs of when parents should keep their child home when they are sick.

LICENSING INFORMATION

This section may vary based on your licensing requirements, but I preferred to include information about my license and where parents can find information about a family child care license that is provided by my home state. Each year our licensing unit would send out a survey to my clients to rate the service they were receiving via my program. In this section of my handbook, I gave my clients a bit of a heads up so they knew what to expect; that they may be asked from time to time to provide information about me, my child care program/home to the licensing agency.

FORMS REQUIRED

Provide your clients with a list of forms that they will be expected to fill out when they enroll your program. Some may be forms you create while others are required by other organizations such as the Food Program or the Licensing Department.

MANDATORY ELEMENTS

In my home state, I was required to share the following policies with each client:

  • A GRIEVANCE POLICY: If you are dissatisfied with any aspect of the services being provided in my licensed program, please bring the concern to my attention right away.

  • INSURANCE POLICY: I have a liability policy in effect to the limits required by the State of _______.

  • MANDATED REPORTING: [State] law requires all teachers, social workers and child care providers to report any suspected physical or sexual abuse or the neglect of any child, as written by MN Statutes.

  • NON-DISCRIMINATION: I, [name] or any of the staff at ______ Daycare & Early Learning, shall not discriminate against any child. The children are placed here without regard to race, creed, color, gender, religion, disability, or national origin.

This may or may not be required in your county/state. Check with your licensing committee to determine what elements are required in your communications with clients.

MEDICAL EMERGENCY

Let your clients know what procedures are in place if/when there is a medical emergency with your or one of the children in your program.

CURRICULUM & ACTIVITIES

Give your clients details on what type of curriculum or activities you offer. Will there be field trips? Will you invite outside services in such as a music therapist or a kid-yoga instructor?

BEHAVIOR GUIDANCE

This topic is better discussed face to face; however, it’s not a bad idea to include some general information about how you will handle “less than desirable” behaviors such as hitting or biting.

TOILET TRAINING

If you’re working with kids under the age of 5, you’ll want to include information on your approach to potty training.

TERMINATION

It’s not fun to think you may have to terminate a family some day but you still need to include information on how the process works; if it should occur.

MISCELLANEOUS INFORMATION

Sometimes the odds and ends bits of information just don’t belong in the other section. Good ahead! You’re the boss here…create a miscellaneous section. Here are some common notes included on this page that you may want to add to yours:

  • SUBSTITUTE TEACHER/PROVIDER

  • PETS IN YOUR HOME

  • EMERGENCY PROCEDURES/DRILLS YOU PRACTICE

  • BRINGING IN TOYS FROM HOME

  • BIRTHDAYS

  • INCLEMENT WEATHER

  • FIELD TRIPS/TRANSPORTATION

  • TAX PREP

  • EMPLOYER’S REIMBURSEMENT PROGRAM

  • POLICY CHANGES & ENROLLMENT UPDATES

  • RENEWAL CONTRACT PROCEDURE

 

PARENT HANDBOOK PDF OR PRINTABLE

While your child care contract should be limited to 1-3 pages, your child care handbook can be longer. Consider it an expanded version of your contract.

Some providers prefer to hand their clients a paper copy of their handbook where others are comfortable emailing it out as a PDF.

Regardless of your delivery preference, it is important to write a clear and concise parent handbook to lay the foundation for how you want your program to run.

WHAT SHOULD BE INCLUDED IN A DAYCARE CONTRACT?

Every person who runs their own child care business should strive to have a clear, concise and thorough contract. Here are some of things that should be included in your contract:

(Note: This is in not to be considered legal advice or a fully comprehensive list. Be sure to consult your child care licensor on what is required in your contract.)

  • The Name of Your Business (Your First & Last Name if you don’t have a business name)

  • Your Name & The Name of Your Clients

  • The Name of the Child

  • The Business Address

  • The Business Phone Number

  • Website and/or Email (if applicable)

  • Hours of Business

  • Child Care Rate and Frequency (i.e. per hour, per day, per week)

  • Extra fees (deposit. enrollment fee, supply fee, etc)

  • Payment Process (how to pay, when payment is due)

  • Late Payment Fees

  • Payment Policy if Child is Absent

  • Exit Notice (Procedure for how this contract ends)

  • Termination (under what circumstances will you terminate a family and what is the procedure?)

  • Signatures (you and both parents; if available) & Date

 

WHAT SHOULDN’T BE INCLUDED IN YOUR CONTRACT?

Not everything should go in your contract. Save any policies and procedures for a different document. These elements could include information about your curriculum, illness/exclusion procedures, confidentiality, drop-off and pick-up procedures.