Ah... difficult situations… we have all experienced them. As a parent who had children in child care, I had to deal with some and over the 12 years of providing child care out of my home, I definitely had my fair share. I remember when I first began; I wrote my contract and policies and thought to myself, “This is perfect. There are no changes I want to make to this. I thought everything through.” Right……. As we know, each little situation that arises leaves you no choice but to make changes to your “perfect” policies. And with those addendums comes the need to discuss the situations with parents.
...a simple reminder about closing time for the family that continually picks up late or your payment schedule if they aren’t paying in a timely manner. Then there may be the case where you need to discuss a delicate problem – a child’s signs of delay or behavior issues. Then there may be the much more serious cases; a parent not using a car seat, showing up intoxicated or even signs of child abuse or neglect. These are all real possibilities that you may encounter during your time of providing child care.
Make sure that good communication begins the very first time you meet and during the review of contracts and policies. This way you can refer back to those policies as situations come up. Address issues as they arise. If you let things go, they may think some of the small things (like being late) are ok. If it’s a sensitive issue that you need to discuss, such as a child’s delay, make sure you tread lightly and be aware that families may be on the defense when it comes to anyone questioning their child’s development. If you are discussing delays or behavior issues, be specific about the issues you want to discuss and give examples of what you have observed. Make sure you are backing your observations up with documentation. Also, be sure that any discussions you have are in private to limit interruptions and allow for confidentiality. It is also very important that parents communicate any issues they have. Parents need to feel comfortable enough to ask questions. There may be a very simple explanation to why a provider is doing something in their program that a parent may not understand. The sooner it is addressed; the sooner things can be resolved. Providers can’t fix problems unless they are aware of them.
I had a parent who would pick up their preschooler and since they only lived a couple blocks away, would allow him to ride home while leaning/standing between the two front seats. I know I did this as a child, but in today’s world it made me very uneasy. So I discussed the situation with the parent, expressed my concern, and told her while I couldn’t make her buckle him up, I feared that something could happen to him, even on the short ride home. She and I had a good relationship and with me focusing more on MY concern as opposed to what SHE was doing wrong, she took it well and began having him buckle up. If it’s a case where a family doesn’t have a car seat at all for their child, you may want to make sure that your policies have a clause for proper vehicle seating and review that with them. You can also work together to find a local organization that may be able to help with obtaining a car seat.
What if a parent shows up intoxicated? We know that if it a parent that has permission to pick up their child, unless you have a strict guideline in your policies about not releasing a child to an intoxicated parent, then you may not have a choice to allow the child from leaving with them. You can do a few things to try and make sure the child is safe. First, try to delay them leaving for as long as possible and try to get in touch with the other parent. If you have no choice but to release the child, make sure you write down the vehicles license plate and call the police. Hopefully, these types of difficult situations won’t ever come up, but you want to be prepared to know how you will handle them if they do.
Parents and providers working together to solve things will equal a successful bond that will allow for you both to meet the goal of a great experience for the child. That is a win-win for all!