What Do You Need in Your Contract and Policies?

Contracts and policies are a major part of running a sustainable family child care business, but often licensees are unsure of just what should be included. With the new Family Child Care Provider Licensing Rule, effective 9/20/17, the State has listed required items, but does not limit what you include.

thAs Family Child Care providers our contracts need to be clear covering fees and hours of operation. These are enforceable in court. Our policies are composed of everything else that pertains to how we deliver care. Think about it this way – if a client does not follow your policies you terminate your contract with them.

However you label your contract and policies (ie. Handbook, Agreement, Contract) they offer some of the first points of communication you have with families. They explain the responsibilities of both licensee and guardian. Your contract and policies need to cover any areas that impact your small business, but include only policies that you are willing to enforce. Review them at least yearly. Remove sections that no longer apply to the type of care you provide. Add new sections as needed, and be sure to notify families of any changes.

In writing your contract and policies consider your language usage of “parents” and how you refer to your business providing services. With the diversity of family structures today it is suggested to use “guardian” to replace parent. It is also suggested to use the name of your business, rather than personal pronouns that are associated primarily with a particular person, especially if you have employees, for the services that will be provided within your program.

Many licensees are concerned with the length of their contract and policies. They look at the resources used to provide copies to families in care and potential clients. Make your contract and policies as thorough, as it needs to be, to support your small business. There are many options or venues for providing clients with a contract and policies that are more than a couple of pages. You can have one copy on hand for everyone to view as needed. You can have contract and policies developed online and provide families with a link they can access as needed. You can have on your website. You can also separate out your contract and policies. Provide all families with written contract and policies are available when requested. Licensing only requires that licensees have proof that clients have read policies. You can show that by having a separate signature page you keep on record.

Where can you find samples of language to meet your contract and policy needs?

FCCAM has samples of language available for members. They can be found in the Business Tool Kit. This area of the website needs the password provided you as part of your membership to access.

Licensing also has form templates available online for many of the items required. If you are a member of Shared Services of Maine there are also many resources there. Providers and professional child care organizations have their contracts and policies online and might provide some directive. COP’s and local networking groups can share what they each have. There is no need to reinvent the wheel.

With the new Licensing Rule now effective, what is Licensing requiring?

Child’s record:

  • Child’s name, birth date, primary residence: street address and mailing address
  • Name, street address, mailing address and telephone number of the child’s guardian
  • Place of employment, telephone number, and street address of the child’s guardian
  • Method of contacting the guardian while the child is in care
  • Name, street address and telephone number of emergency contact other than the guardian
  • Dates of enrollment and termination
  • Immunization records
  • Names, addresses and telephone numbers of the child’s health care professional
  • Written authorization to obtain emergency medical care for the child
  • Record of all serious injuries and reportable incidents sustained by the child while in care, recorded on the same day of the injury including date and time of the notification of a parent, signed by the parent within 48 hours of the incident

A record that the provider has shared the following information with the child’s parent at the time of admission to the program:

  • Child guidance practices
  • Parental visitation at the child care site
  • Expulsion and suspension practices
  • Management of child illness (includes exclusion for illness, administration of medication)
  • Emergency preparedness for natural disasters and human-caused events, including but not limited to, fire drills
  • Release of children to non-custodial caregivers
  • Mandated reporting
  • Serious injury and child death reporting

Not all of these following area have new requirements, but there are some slight changes to existing regulations to be checked out:

  • Names of individuals who are permitted by the guardian to remove the child from the premises.
  • Child’s known allergies and other health conditions, including any related health plans.
  • Written permission or denial for use or distribution of images or personal information of the child on any publications, social media or promotional materials.
  • Complete record if suspected child abuse or neglect is reported to the Department’s child protective intake.
  • Professional developmental assessments of the child provided by the guardian.
  • Relevant documentation of medical necessity (for example, sleeping in a non- horizontal position or avoiding the use of sunscreen).
  • Notation of any known significant changes in the child’s appearance, hygiene, health or behavior including, but not limited to, aggression, withdrawal, sexual acting out and prolonged tantrums.
  • Written permission from the child’s guardian before allowing the child to participate in any high-risk activity.
  • Mandatory Report
  • Drinking water
  • Wastewater failure
  • Develop and follow a written plan for obtaining help in an emergency when only one provider is present, or when provider-child ratios are exceeded.
  • Prevention of exposure to blood and body fluids
  • Handwashing
  • Safety of environment (including firearms, toxins)
  • Pets
  • Nutrition
  • General care of age groups
  • Breastfeeding, Swimming and wading, Transportation and Nighttime care if part of your program’s services.

Yes, there’s a lot here.

You can check out the Licensing Rule to clarify and can always call your licensing specialist with questions.

Remember resources are out there, you are not in this alone.