Time and time again I hear about childminders who are having problems with parents over one issue or another. While some of these issues are unfortunately unavoidable, others can be prevented by having a robust contract supported by strong policies. Here are some scenarios that could be avoided by clear communication and robust paperwork. What would you do in each case?
You have had a family on your books for around 10 months without any issues. Then one day your 14 year old son gets a bad headache and does not feel quite well enough to go to school. He can stay upstairs in his bedroom, so you decide to remain open that day. However the mother of one of your childminding parents hears about this and decides to keep their child at home all week as they say they are worried about their child catching a bug. The parent then refuses to pay for the entire week that she does not bring her child in for. Your contract states that you do not charge parents if you or any of your family are ill.
- Tell the parent you completely understand their worries and pay back all their fees for the entire week.
- Resentfully pay the day’s fees back and complain about it on social media making sure everyone knows who the parent is.
- Realise your contracts are not robust enough so pay the money back for the day your son was ill at home and change your contracts to say that when a child is off for any reason normal charges apply.
You are a new childminder. A family visits and you like them so when they ask to start in three weeks you are delighted and agree. In the intervening three weeks you have other enquiries and sign on two more children but have to turn others away as your places are full. The day comes that the first family is due to start but they do not show up. You ring them to see what is happening and they tell you that they have changed their minds and that a relative is going to look after the child instead. You did not take a deposit or get the parents to sign a contract, intending to do it on their first day.
- Offer to give them two weeks free if they start today.
- Have a massive argument with the parent about it. On the doorstep. With the neighbours listening.
- Chalk it up to experience and readvertise the place, making sure in future that you get families to pay a deposit and sign a contract to secure their place.
You have been childminding for two years without any major problems. Part of your ethos is lots of trips out to places to give the children lots of experiences outside the setting. You use contracts and gets parents to sign permission slips. You sign on a new family for a full time place, and they seem to sign everything happily with no fuss. You then check the permission slips before putting them in the new child’s file and see that they have not given permission to take the child in the car. You ask the family about this, and they are adamant that they do not want their child going anywhere in the car.
- Tell all the other families that you can no longer offer any outings that are not within walking distance.
- Continue taking all the children on outings using the car but tell the child not to tell their parents, it is your little secret.
- Talk to the parents calmly and professionally and if they insist they do not want their child going in the car regretfully decide that you have to give notice under your settling in period conditions. Then alter your permission slips.
You have robust policies for charging when a parent is late to collect their child. These work well and parents are only ever late for genuine reasons as they know there will be an additional charge to pay. You are good at sticking to your policies, so everyone knows what to expect. Then one of the parents gets a new job. They start to arrive with their child up to fifteen minutes before their contracted start time and expect to be able to drop the child off. You do not have a policy covering early drop offs.
- Let the children in early each time but do not charge the parents so end up feeling used and resentful.
- Open the door when they arrive and hand them your dog with its lead with strict instructions to walk it until their contracted start time.
- Change your policies to include charges for early drops offs.
You are an experienced childminder with plenty of children on your books. You meet with a new family who need a place at the last minute. They do not bring the child with them to the initial meeting saying that they are unwell. You talk to them about your setting and what you can offer and ask them if they have any needs for the child. They say no. You gets them to fill in all the required paperwork and then set a date for the child to start the following week. When the child starts it very quickly becomes apparent that they have needs that always require one to one support.
- Continue to struggle on, trying to support the child on your own until everyone is tired and stressed and other families start to notice their child isn’t getting the care they need and start to leave.
- Stick the child in a playpen all day while you work with the other children.
- Refer to your contracts and give the family notice on the basis that they have knowingly and wilfully concealed important information about their child’s needs from you.
You have been childminding for years and think you have seen it all. You take on a new family, get them to complete all the necessary paperwork and then set a date for the child to start. On the child’s first day the mum drops the child off and you could swear that they are moving in. They come supplied with several large bags, including a large bin bag full of what looks suspiciously like washing. A baby in the other room starts to cry so you shove all the bags under the stairs so you can have a look when the children are all settled.
When the children are settled you get to look at what is in all the bags. You discover the bin bag is full of dirty washing. You also find a dog lead in another smaller bag along with a short shopping list. You thinks it is odd, but the children are waiting for their morning snack, so you forget about it.
At pick up time the new parent arrives to collect up their child. You pass all the bags across and talk about the child’s day and all the fun they have had. However the parent does not look very happy at all. You ask what is wrong and the parents then berates you for not doing the washing, walking the dog and picking up the shopping!
- Apologise and then the next day do your best to comply with all the parent’s requests, meaning that you have no time to spend with the children as you are too busy doing washing, shopping and dog walking.
- Shout, “you must be having a laugh!” and throw the bags out into the street so that the bin bag splits open and dirty pants start blowing down the street.
- Realise that no matter how long you have been in this job there is always something that will surprise you. Explain to the parent that you are a childminder not a skivvy. Sigh when they scream obscenities at you then decide life is just too short and give the parent immediate notice as backed up by your contracts.
How did you do?
Mostly a: Parent’s must love you. You are a complete walkover! You may think you are trying to do your best for everyone but this is not always a good thing because at some point you will either realise you cannot cope with everything you have promised to do or will end up feeling more and more resentful and unhappy. Do not be afraid to set boundaries using your contracts and policies to back you up. Then stick to them.
Mostly b: You are a complete nightmare! You bend the rules to breaking point, ignore any safeguarding protocols and love causing as much drama as possible. Try setting up some robust contracts and policies instead before someone gets hurt or you end up in court.
Mostly c: Well done. No one gets it right all of the time, but you use sensible ways of resolving problems and recognise the importance of having robust contracts and policies in place.
You may also like these helpful resources:
Contracts, Policies and Forms pack
Having a clear and robust contract and policies is vital to the smooth running of any childminding business and can help prevent unwanted situations and misunderstandings between parent(s)/guardian(s) and childminders.
The ‘Contracts, Policies and Forms pack’ contains a full contract, complemented and reinforced by specially written policies. Also included are lots of useful forms for you to use in your business as well as information about the sort of paperwork you will need.
There is no need to buy repeated contracts. You can print the contracts in this pack as many times as you need.
Partnership with Parents Pack
This is an essential tool to help you build and develop your partnership with parents. From help advertising and attracting new families, through to daily communication and letter templates to send to help deal with tricky situations in a professional manner, this pack has everything you need.
Childminding Best Practice Newsletter
Sign up for the free Childminding Best Practice Newsletter via the link below and I will send you best practice ideas, childminding news, EYFS tips, outstanding ideas, stories from other childminders, arts and crafts project templates, new products, and links.
About Kids To Go
Kids To Go was established in 2008. Products include the Ultimate Childminding Checklist, best practice resources promoting diversity, safety and childminding in the great outdoors (Forest Childcare). It is the home of the Childminding Best Practice Club and the free weekly Childminding Best Practice newsletters.