We’ll start this post by restating that the Professional Learning Committee of FCCAM are working family child care providers and not legal experts. We are sharing information gained from personal experience, state and national resources in an attempt to provide direction for providers that have been asking many questions around liability, specifically around the spreading of COVID-19 within their program.
Family Child Care programs are required to have language in their handbooks around the management of childhood illness, serious injury and death. We are also required to have an Emergency Preparedness Plan. The language we settle on is left open allowing us to reflect the practices of our individual programs. There is truly not one set example of language that will meet the needs of all programs.
On this site, we have tried to provide a variety of language samples that can be adapted to meet the needs of your unique program. These samples can be found under multiple sections.
If you have a specific topic try a search of the site to see any previous posts on that topic.
We have also built a site menu that includes 3 sections with supporting materials: Business Toolkit / this contains licensing requirements, contact and handbook guidance and emergency preparedness material;
Maine Licensing does not require providers to carry liability insurance, but FCCAM encourages providers to. Your homeowner’s insurance does not cover you for accidents and lawsuits related to your business. Here’s a link to a post by Tom Copeland that explains the reason for carrying liability insurance.
It doesn’t hurt to have a “liability clause” or “indemnity clause”within your handbook. Such as:
“The undersigned legal guardian assumes all risk of injury or harm to the child while the child is at the child care or on approved field trips. The legal guardian agrees to fully release, indemnify, defend, and forever discharge this child care, its owners, staff, employees, and agents of and from all liability, claims, demands, damages, costs, expenses, actions, and causes of action in respect of death, injury, loss, or damage to the child, or by the child, howsoever caused, arising out of or to arise by reason of or during the child’s participation in the child care.”.
Know that “liability clause” or “indemnity clause” language will not hold up in court if a legal guardian can prove negligence by the child care.
Specifically in regards to the questions that have arisen about liability if a child catches COVID-19 from your child care, it is suggested to start with a review of your contract and handbook.
- Do you already have policy in place about daily health checks?
- Do you have an illness management policy the includes exclusion do to illness?
- Do you have symptoms listed for exclusion that align with infectious diseases?
- Do you have language on contacting legal guardians when child shows illness symptoms?
- Are infectious diseases mentioned in your Emergency Preparedness Plan?
- Do you have set protocol on what to do when someone in the program comes in contact with an infectious disease? Including notifying families.
- Do you have language around a child returning to care after an illness?
- Health and Safety practices explained – disinfecting, hand washing, etc.
- Do you have language around your or staff illness? Impact on ratios? Substitute care?
- Do you have language on changes to fees due to illness?
- ………this is a continuous process and each unique program has unique questions to consider around their practices.
Liability is a part of the business of providing child care. A strong handbook that contains clearly written policies that guardians sign off on is your best protection if a question of liability arises.